Sydney: Around 20,000 members of the Indian diaspora are expected to be present at a community reception being organised in honour of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday evening.
The organisers are also setting up big screens outside this iconic sporting venue which would enable about 5,000 additional Indian Australians to watch Modi's speech. With few hours to go before the mega reception being hosted in Allphones Arena at Olympic Park, the Indian expatriate community seems to be truly in the grip of a Modi mania.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
"I am so excited over attending Modiji's function that I did not sleep last night," Narinder Sharma, owner of a cab company, told IANS.
The excitement over the Sydney function is not restricted to Australia's largest city only. A chartered train dubbed “Modi Express” departed from Melbourne Sunday night for Sydney with 500 “Modi bhagats”. A large number of enthusiasts have missed the train literally as the number of the seats was restricted.
"I am really disappointed as I could not get a seat on the train for the Sydney reception of the Indian PM," says Ranjan Singh Rana while speaking to IANS from Melbourne. "I wish more tickets were given to the Melbournians," he adds.
The number of those flying to attend the Sydney reception from Melbourne and other distant Australian cities would easily run into three figures.
Sydney may be organising the biggest overseas reception for Modi but it would not be the first reception Down Under as Modi has already been received by a euphoric expat gathering when he unveiled Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Brisbane Sunday.
But it is the Sydney event which is attracting even the Australian mainstream media's attention because of the sheer size of the audience. No overseas politician has ever received such a rockstar-like reception in Australia in the living memory.
The organisers, the Indian Australian Community Foundation (IACF), are confident that they would host a reception which would be bigger than the one organised at New York's Madison Square.
While the excitement over the Allphones event is definitely palpable, a section of the diaspora is not happy over the way Modi's reception is being organised. This list of dissenters includes some members of the Indian Australian Sikh community.
"We have been really disappointed by the organisers as they did not send us an invitation to register for the reception for Narendra Modi," an anguished secretary of Sikh Council of Australia Bawa Singh Jagdev told IANS.
"Even though the invitation was extended to us when we questioned the organisers, we have decided not to attend the event as an organisation. Some members of our community would be attending the event to honour the guest of Australia but they would do so in their individual capacity," Jagdev says.
Sikh Council of Australia has however disassociated itself from any public protest against the Indian prime minister.
"Nothing is achieved by such protests," says Jagdev while asserting that his organisation would give a petition to Modi through the Indian diplomatic mission.
His sentiment is shared by Melbournian car dealer Narinder Singh who says: "Instead of staging protests against Narendra Modi, we should seek solution by sitting across the table."
There are a number of other so-called community leaders who have expressed dissatisfaction against the organisers in the media but, as pointed out by some senior diaspora figures, their protest is because they were not invited to event.