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A man standing on a stage raises his arms while facing a seated audience.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a speech during an event in Sydney, Australia on May 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Listen: Indian PM Modi is expected to get a rockstar welcome in the U.S. How much is the diaspora fuelling him?

On June 22, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make his first official state visit to the United States. And if his visits to Australia last month, to Canada in 2015 and to Texas in 2019 are any indication, he’ll be given a rockstar welcome.

U.S. President Joe Biden has already joked that he wants Modi’s autograph because so many people want to see the Indian PM while he’s in the United States.

Of course, Modi has his critics too, who point to the populist leader’s far-right policies and human rights abuses.

President Joe Biden last met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House in 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Yet, as the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, Modi remains one of the world’s most popular leaders - not just at home, but among the tens of millions who make up the global South Asian diaspora.

Last week, perhaps in an acknowledgement of the power of the South Asian diaspora on Indian elections, the former leader of the opposition, Rahul Gandhi, also visited the United States.

Indian politician Rahul Gandhi, centre right, leaves after his speech at the Javits Center on June 4 in New York. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

In the latest episode of Don’t Call Me Resilient, we are asking how important is that diaspora? With India having one of the highest remittance rates in the world, how much does overseas support contribute to Modi’s popularity and success? And what kind of an impact could a progressive element of that diaspora have on Indian politics?

Anjali Arondekar joins the podcast to sift through all this. She is a professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is also the founding co-director of the university’s Center for South Asian Studies which hosted a discussion last week with Rajiv Gandhi.

Anjali Arondekar was in Conversation with Rahul Gandhi last week at the Center for South Asian Studies, UCSC.


Narendra Modi’s First State Visit to the US Has Both National and Global Implications (The Wire)

The Modi Question (BBC) A Defeat for Modi’s Party in South India Heartens His Rivals

Indian politician boasts about getting Muslims killed – on camera (Al Jazeera)

The Network of Hindu Nationalists Behind Modi’s Diaspora Diplomacy in the U.S. (The Intercept)

President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi walk around NRG Stadium in Texas holding hands and waving to the crowd during the ‘Howdy Modi: Shared Dreams, Bright Futures’ event in Houston in 2019. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

From the archives - in The Conversation

Read more: India's new citizenship act legalizes a Hindu nation

Read more: Trump and Modi: birds of the same feather, but with different world views

Read more: Just who is Narendra Modi, India's man of the moment?

Read more: How the conservative right hijacks religion

Read more: Narendra Modi has won the largest election in the world. What will this mean for India?

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Thank you to Sanjay Ruparelia, Jarislowsky Democracy Chair at TMU and Kalpana Jain, Senior Religion Editor at TCUS who contributed to this episode.