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Trump visit: Uncertainty continues to loom over Ahmedabad itinerary

No confirmation on visit to Sabarmati Ashram amid speculation that it will be given a miss

Vinay Umarji  |  Ahmedabad 

Trump India visit, Motera stadium
Police personnel keep vigil at Sardar Patel Stadium, commonly known as Motera Stadium, which will host 'Namaste Trump' event during US President Donald Trump's maiden visit to India, in Ahmedabad. Photo: PTI

Uncertainty continues to loom over United States President Donald Trump's itinerary during his visit to Ahmedabad on Monday.

Till Saturday, officials in the state government and local administrative bodies — such as the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) — had no clarity on whether Trump, who will be accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, would visit Sabarmati Ashram before heading to the public event ‘Namaste Trump’, which is modeled on the lines of the ‘Howdy Modi’ event held in September last year.

Ahmedabad has been decked up with resurfaced roads, saplings planted on dividers, massive hoardings of Prime Minister and Trump, and barricades on both sides for the public to cheer the cavalcade.

However, it is still not clear whether the roadshow will be held from the airport to Sabarmati Ashram and then to the world’s largest cricket stadium at Motera for the public event or if Trump will head straight to the stadium from the airport.

City police and local administration have revised the route multiple times with more roads being blocked for public use ahead of the roadshow. Speculation is rife that Trump may skip Sabarmati Ashram to make time for a visit to Agra.

If true, this would be a first in recent times, as heads of states visiting Ahmedabad — like Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — have all visited the ashram and paid respect to Mahatma Gandhi.

Moreover, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, too, on Friday stated that Trump would hold a roadshow from the airport to the stadium. However, when asked about Trump's visit to Sabarmati Ashram, Rupani told journalists that the White House would be taking a call on this.

Mock drills have already been conducted along the route with cops stationed from airport to Sabarmati Ashram, and within Motera stadium. The local police is also closely coordinating with other agencies like the US secret service, India’s Special Protection Group (SPG) and the National Security Guards (NSG) for security operations during the roughly three-hour visit.

Opposition’s questions

Questions are being raised by the Opposition over the organising committee of the ‘Namaste Trump’ event. For instance, it was only on Friday that Rupani said the committee was headed by Ahmedabad Mayor Bijal Patel, along with two Members of Parliament and other prominent citizens.

On her part, Patel, too, tweeted on Friday confirming this. Patel could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala on Thursday raised questions over the leadership of the committee and invitation to Trump for the Ahmedabad visit, in his tweet addressing the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and PM Modi.

It is also being speculated that the committee has leased out the Motera stadium, run by Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), for a few hours on Monday for the ‘Namaste Trump’ event for an undisclosed amount. As such, GCA sources said that the event was not going to be the inauguration of stadium, for which a separate date would be finalised later. With the lack of official confirmation, it is also being estimated that the ‘Namaste Trump’ event, which will see the Trumps and Modi preside over a cultural event and address the public, has seen a spending of roughly Rs 100 crore.

First Published: Sat, February 22 2020. 22:44 IST