Sydney (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of overseas Indians are expected to cheer Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Sydney’s biggest sporting arena on Tuesday, a rare mass showing for a foreign leader in Australia.
Modi, who is visiting Australia for the first time since 2014, will look to use his popularity among expatriate Indians to boost support at home ahead of a general election next year, after his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost a key state election in southern India this month.
About 20,000 supporters are expected to throng the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney Olympic Park, one of the city’s biggest indoor stadiums which has hosted international stars like Bruce Springsteen and the Backstreet Boys.
A chartered Qantas flight rebranded as “Modi Airways” will bring in fans from Melbourne and “Modi Express” buses are being chartered from Queensland, local ABC News reported.
Modi is known to put up big shows during his overseas trips and has addressed packed stadiums in the UK, the U.S. and other countries that have large expatriate Indian populations.
Festivities in Sydney have already begun outside the venue with supporters breaking into orchestrated dances, songs and chants praising Modi and cheering for India.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is expected to attend the event with Modi later in the day, and make brief remarks. At a bilateral meeting on Wednesday the leaders will discuss trade and investment, renewable energy, and defence and security cooperation.
“Australia and India share a commitment to a stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Albanese said in a statement.
India is Australia’s sixth largest trading partner.
Modi, 72, who is known for never addressing a press conference, will not be speaking to the media at any of his engagements in Australia.
Despite his popularity and strongman image, Modi is a divisive figure at home and abroad. Critics say religious polarisation has increased since his Hindu nationalist BJP came to power in 2014, and that the country’s minority Muslims are being marginalised.
A BBC documentary, banned in India, that questioned the actions of Modi during deadly Hindu-Muslim riots two decades ago, will be aired in the Australian parliament building on Wednesday, SBS News reported quoting a group calling itself ‘We the Diaspora’.