Narendra Modi’s Sydney speech was basically Madison Square Garden 2.0

Same old.
Same old.
Image: Reuters/Rick Stevens
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There was no revolving stage at Sydney’s Allphones arena.

Nor were there any catchy abbreviations for the crowd of 16,000 that packed the stadium on a Monday evening. And perhaps the cultural performance was a tad more traditional than the one half-way across the world a month-and-a-half ago.

But almost everything else at Narendra Modi’s big show before the Indian diaspora at Sydney mirrored his appearance at New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG)—including the Indian prime minister’s speech.

Of course, given the powerful orator that he is, Modi repackaged much of the content effectively. Nonetheless, it could do little to hide the remarkable similarities between the two speeches, both delivered in Hindi.

And whatever wasn’t said at MSG, almost certainly has featured before in the numerous speeches that Modi has made since taking office about six months ago. The same ideas are being repeated, albeit in different forms.

Here are some select excerpts from his Sydney speech placed alongside those from his MSG address.

Man of small deeds

Sydney: “I have to work on small things, for small people, to make small people big.”

MSG: “I am a very small person, very ordinary person, I have spent my childhood that way as well. And because I am a small person, I want to fix the small things, I want to work for the small people.”


Sydney: “The country’s prime minister is doing only one thing today, making toilets. In rural parts, our mothers and sisters still have to go out in the open. It makes me feel sad.”

MSG: ”Many people have said a prime minister shouldn’t do such small things. I don’t know whether it is right or not, but I have decided I will build toilets.”

Repealing laws

Sydney: “They (previous government) enjoyed making laws. I enjoy finishing laws.”

MSG: “The previous governments used to boast about the laws they got into place but I have done things differently,” Modi said. “I want to get rid of all redundant laws. Such outdated laws, almost like a maze of laws. I have appointed a committee to clean up these outdated laws.”

Visa on arrival

Sydney:  “People who have PIO (People of Indian Origin) cards, they will get life-long visa. PIO and OCI will be one,” he said. ”We want to increase tourism in India. You can also tell the citizens of Australia, there will be visa on arrival. Happy?”

MSG: “I was told Indian-origin people face difficulties due to the differences in PIO and OCI policies. And more so if the wife is not of Indian origin…In some months, we are going to merge PIO and OCI schemes and we will create a new scheme. Thirdly, we will give long term visas for US nationals in our embassy and consulate,” he said.

“To make sure, American tourists can travel in India without any difficulty, we have started electronic travel authorization and visa on arrival…we will enforce it soon.”

Jan Dhan Yojna

Sydney: ”In the last 10 weeks, 71 million bank accounts have already been opened,” he said. “Look at the honesty of the poor people of the country…we made a rule they can open a bank account with zero balance….they have deposited Rs5000 crore ($810.60 million) in these 71 million accounts.”

MSG: “In order to ensure that people living in rural areas get financial activities we launched the scheme as soon as we came to power. We told them (people of India) that you can open your bank account with a Zero-deposit balance, but the honesty of Indians is such, that just in a day they deposited Rs 1,500 crore in our banks.”   

Power of democracy

Sydney: “Australia and India share common values. Democracy is our heritage,” he added.

MSG: “America is oldest democracy of world, India is biggest democracy. People from all over come to America, Indians are everywhere in the world,” Modi said.

Exporting teachers

Sydney: “We need to map the world to identify the kind of workers the world needs,” Modi said. “The world needs teachers of math and science, the world needs nurses. Should we just export diamonds, potatoes, tomatoes?” he said.

MSG: “In years to come, the world will have old people in their workforce. Today, the world needs nurses…today the world needs teachers for math and sciences. Can’t India export teachers?”

Demographic dividend

Sydney: “Mother India has 250 crore arms, 200 crore of those arms are younger than 35. It’s the youth of India who can help us fulfil our potential.”

MSG: “We have democracy, demographic dividend and demand on our side,” Modi said. “India is the youngest nation in the world with 65% of its population below 35 years of age.”

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