PM Modi's a 'rock star', screamed fans in Australia


World, Asia

Beside Modi stood dozens of people wearing ‘Modi in Australia’ T-shirts

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures before addressing the Indian Community at Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia (Photo: PTI)

Sydney: Thousands of rapturous supporters flocked to hear a public address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the first visit by an Indian premier to Australia in 28 years.

Mr Modi, 64, was greeted like a pop star on a trip to New York in September and received a similar reception in Sydney, which he is visiting after attending the G20 summit in Brisbane.

"Modi's a rock star!" screamed one supporter as the Indian premier took the stage to a wildly enthusiastic reception.

"This love, this welcome... I give this to the feet of the children of mother India," Mr Modi said, observing that many people were still outside, unable to gain access to the packed venue.

"He is our most charismatic leader and he is going to take our country to the next generation," said Sushil Chaddha, an IT consultant who has lived in Australia for three decades. 

Beside him stood dozens of people wearing "Modi in Australia" T-shirts printed with the Indian leader's face in the style of Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" 2008 election posters.

Others chanted "Modi, Modi, Modi!" as they jumped, sang and danced, with drums and music playing in the background.

Some 20,000 people, mostly from the Indian diaspora in Australia, jammed the stadium, although some had travelled from as far as the United States, Singapore and New Zealand. Reports said there were 25 television crews from India at the event.

Scores of supporters arrived on a train decked out in the country's national colours.

The so-called "Modi Express" saw more than 200 supporters board a train from Melbourne for the 12-hour journey to Sydney, singing and dancing in the carriages ahead of the event.

"After a long, long time, such a phenomenon, such an excitement, such a wave has come, which is unparallelled," a passenger, Rakesh Raizada, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

There are around 450,000 people of Indian origin in Australia, including many from the student community, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will be rolling out the red carpet for Mr Modi in Canberra on Tuesday.

His trip Down Under -- for the G20 summit in Brisbane and a state visit -- comes just two months after Abbott's tour of India, during which the two countries sealed a long-awaited nuclear energy deal.

Mr Modi will address parliament in Canberra on Tuesday.

While he was largely feted, not everyone at the stadium was there to welcome him, with about 100 Sikh protesters lining a street beside the entrance.

"The main message is unity," said Karandeep Singh Chadha. "PM Modi and his associates are involved in pro-Hindu movements that are trying to squash minorities."