This week, Modi returns to the U.S. — almost exactly a year since his nearly 20,000-strong crowd at Madison Square Garden generated media madness in India and abroad. Modi’s diaspora audiences have continued to throng to hear him: 16,000 in Australia and some 50,000 in Dubai. So, is this “Madison Square Garden Part 2?” Not really. The prime minister’s two-day segment in San Jose following a speech at the United Nations in New York reflects Modi’s definitive push of his “Digital India” and “Startup India” initiatives, messaging that appeals to multiple constituencies beyond just the players in the digital economy to include young educated Indian diaspora folks for whom many of Modi’s announced initiatives trigger a diasporic “pride India,” even if their everyday lives remain broadly unaffected by the status of U.S.-India relations.
In 2014, the hook for Modi’s visit was his address at the UN General Assembly — his first as Indian prime minister. New York and Washington were his only stops. This time, the two-day segment in California is significant for several reasons. First, in stretching the spatial frame to the West Coast, Modi becomes the first Indian prime minister to visit California in more than three decades. California is home to the largest segment of the 3-million strong Indian diaspora in the U.S.. Historically, Indian Punjabis, mostly agriculturalists were the earliest immigrants to the U.S..