Narendra Modi’s show in Antwerp to take place despite Brussels Attack


New Delhi, March 25: Antwerp’s diamond traders will ensure that the dazzle doesn’t go out of Narendra Modi’s March 30 show in Brussels for the Indian diaspora.

After Tuesday’s serial explosions, Modi’s event managers were doubtful whether they would be able to go ahead with the civic reception to be hosted at the Expo Centre with an estimated gathering of nearly 5,000 Indians, including PIOs and NRIs.

But Manoj Ladwa, the director of the 2014 Modi for PM campaign who landed in Brussels before the bombs detonated and camped there, asserted that the Prime Minister’s show would go on as scheduled.

“The theme is ‘Stronger India’. Our team is working tirelessly and fearlessly for the PM’s visit. It will be a display of solidarity by the Indian diaspora,” claimed Ladwa, a London-based lawyer who had put together a reception for Modi at London’s Wembley Stadium last year.

Modi will stop over at Brussels for a couple of days en route to the US.

Antwerp, Belgium’s commercial capital, is 50km away from Brussels and is central to Modi’s interaction with the country’s Indians, most of them from Gujarat.

Antwerp’s diamond business, long controlled by its orthodox, largely Hasidic Jewish community, has been taken over by the Shahs, Kotharis and Mehtas who, recent estimates say, control almost three-quarters of the trade.

Modi should have many reasons to be comfortable in the company of the Gujarati-speaking Indian Belgians who have made kosher Jain cuisine an integral part of the country’s menus, even in posh restaurants.

A member of the BJP’s overseas cell, in Belgium recently to assemble and put together the nuts and bolts for the civic reception at the Brussels Expo Centre with Ladwa’s team, recalled that at a pizza place his local hosts had surprised him by ordering something called “Jeetu’s pizza”.

It turned out that this version was named after a Gujarati who trained the eatery’s chefs to dish out a lean, mean pizza sans meat, onion and garlic but spiced appropriately to gratify an Indian palate.

Modi is unlikely to dine out. But if he does, he would discover that most Antwerp eating-houses serving cosmopolitan cuisines list separate “Jain” fare.

Apart from propagating their dietary preferences, Belgium’s Gujarati diamond businessmen have sponsored their “Antwerp IPL teams” of 11 players each that are auctioned to a bidder, mostly diamond traders, as teams and not as individual players.

Although Belgium ought to have been ideal for the diaspora to organise itself under the RSS or the BJP’s banner, as Indians in many western countries have, it remained out of bounds for the Sangh “parivar”.

“Maybe, the migrants who are just three decades old, were busy setting up their businesses and making profits to bother about social and political activities,” a BJP source said.

Therefore, the BJP’s overseas cell also roped in Surat MLA and diamond merchant Harsh Sanghvi to network with the Belgian communities.

The BJP’s Antwerp leadoff person is Mehul Kothari, who heads the city’s Indian association.

Aside from the sparkle, the BJP’s overseas cell is trying hard to mobilise other Indian communities from IT and academia.