By Sandeep Datta
In appreciation of Narendra Modi’s humble beginnings, over 200 fans of the Indian prime minister will travel 870 km by a special train dubbed “Modi Express” from Melbourne to Sydney for a diaspora event Nov 17.
Carrying 220 Modi fans, the four-carriage train decorated with tricolour balloons will depart from Melbourne’s Southern Cross station for Sydney at 8.30 p.m. Nov 16, spokesperson Balesh Singh Dhankhar of the Indian Australian Community Foundation (IACF) said over phone from Sydney.
About 1,000 such fans are expected to arrive from Melbourne to Sydney. As the train’s capacity is just 220, only that many will travel, he said.
Modi will reach Brisbane to take part in the two-day G20 summit starting Nov 15. It will be followed by a community reception in Sydney Nov 17 during which Modi will address the Indian diaspora. He will also address a joint parliamentary session in Canberra the next day.
According to the 2011 Australian census, around 295,300 people in Australia were born in India while around 390,900 had Indian ancestry.
The Modi fans have plans to savour Gujarati cuisine during their journey, Ashwin Bora of the IACF told IANS.
Some fans told IANS that the train journey will hold a unique place in their memory.
“Since Modiji has travelled a lot by trains as a grassroots BJP worker, we came up with this idea,” said Modi fan Sanjeev Bhakri.
“We have plans to put up Modiji’s banners and enjoy Gujarati food during our journey,” said another Modi fan, Vijeth Shetty.
Dhankhar said people were “enthusiastic about watching the charismatic Modi live in front of thousands of people who will congregate at Sydney’s Allphones Arena Nov 17”.
He said that while planning Modi’s Australian tour, it was believed that the Brisbane visit for the G20 summit, the parliament address in Canberra, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s banquet at the Melbourne Cricket Ground would be enough.
“It was only after learning about such a huge interest from Indians in Sydney that the Indian Prime Minister’s Office realised how much significance the Sydney visit could hold for the Indian diaspora,” the spokesman said.
In Sydney, the organisers also have plans to highlight a new historical, archaeological and linguistic evidence indicating human migration from the Indian subcontinent to Australia around 5,000 years ago.
“It will show how the link between India and Australia has been much older and deeper than many people believe,” he added.
Event organisers in Sydney said more than 21,000 people have registered through their local community organisations to attend the event, which can accommodate only 16,000.
Another 20,000 people are expected to register Monday onwards when organisers open a number of seats for allocation by lottery.