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Business Standard

It wasn't a cakewalk for Madison event organisers

NRI businessmen, volunteers of Overseas Friends of BJP and Hindu leaders put in efforts to make Modi function a success

Nitin Sethi  |  New Delhi 

The $1 million-plus event at the Madison Square Garden for Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had to overcome all kinds of legal and logistical wrangling to be pulled off. It's taken the might of volunteers, non-resident Indian (NRI) businessmen of all kinds, religious Hindu leaders, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cadre and leaders in the US and India to make sure the 19,000-capacity event on Sunday is a resounding success.

Upon instructions from 'Delhi', the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) formed a new a politically and religiously neutral entity 'Indian American Community Foundation (IACF)' to hold the event. The entity, it was decided, would be dissolved after the event. But the Madison Square Garden (MSG) authorities would not give it permission to book for Modi's event. In stepped an event management company Poojanka Entertainment, run by one, Bharat Jotwani. "Several other organisations could not get the place but with my company's 15 years of experience, the MSG authorities were happy to provide it. I am very glad to be part of this landmark event for the prime minister as a volunteer and a member of the committee organising it," said Jotwani. IACF signed a back agreement with Poojanka Entertainment to then run the event.

Jotwani's name found its way in Indian media last year with singer Sonu Nigam claiming underworld kingpin Chhota Shakeel had threatened the former must work with Jotwani. But Jotwani told Business Standard it was all a dirty game played by his rivals to stop him from gaining more business.

The IACF faced a different niggling legal trouble though, while organising the event. It got a legal notice from a group called the National Indian American Public Policy Institute, another NRI group in the US, threatening to sue IACF on being blocked from buying advertising space for the event and patron sponsorship. It specifically referred to actions of Dr Bharat Barai, claiming they fell afoul of US laws. Business Standard couldn't reach Barai despite repeated attempts, but Jotwani, said the group filing the case have enough credibility to start a lawsuit. "We have organised this most cleanly, legally and professionally," he said.

IACF, its organisation, also gained a lot from the organisational and cadre strength of OFBJP and other affiliates. Chandrakanta Patel, head of OFBJP and chairman of IACF, said many karyakartas (workers) of OFBJP had volunteered through Modi's trip and at the event to make it a success. "It's a huge responsibility and all of us are working day and night to make it a success," he said. "Of course, OFBJP has played a major role but all Indian diaspora is joining in," he added.

While BJP leaders Vijay Jolly and RSS/BJP leader Ram Madhav were in the US to prepare the grounds for Modi's visit too, another help came from Sadhvi Rithambara. After years of being unable to visit the US, she finally made a trip to the country, in time to hold seven meetings under the aegis of Param Shakti Peeth of America and the Param Shakti Peeth of East Coast. Virendra K Labroo of the East Coast group said he was involved in the two meetings in New Jersey which pulled in almost 800 people. "We expect 75-85 per cent" of these to attend the MSG event. Those who hold Pujya Didi Ma (Sadhvi Rithambara) in high regard also feel the same for Prime Minister Modi."

Patel said Rithambara will also be part of the MSG event. "Both (Sadhvi and Modi) have a good relationship, she shall be there as an observer," he told. While Patel said she had made her own plans to come to the US, Labroo said she had been asked by the organisers of the event to come though said his organisation itself was not so closely involved in the event.

To go by Jotwani, all the collective efforts seem to have worked out well. "We have a 16,000 waiting list of guests and are going to give away 1,000 tickets by lottery on Sunday. Our voluntary financial contribution target was topped two days ago," he said.

First Published: Sat, September 27 2014. 22:19 IST