Modi’s Wembley address evokes mixed reaction from British media


Modi Wembley

The much awaited event at Wembley on November 13, which was touted as the highlight of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK, was a grand spectacle. While in India everything else took a backseat including for the media with virtually everyone glued to the television, the response in Britain particularly the British media was mixed.

The Telegraph’s headline reported, ‘Fireworks, crowds and dancers welcome Modi to Britain’. It said, “A barrage of fireworks, a crowd to rival a cup final and 700 loudly dressed dancers yesterday gave Narendra Modi a spectacle that boasted everything but understatement.” Describing the grand spectacle it said, “And so it was that Britain – only the 28th destination on his list, but set apart from the rest by historic ties – threw an unprecedented rally-cum-party at the national stadium last night, with the biggest audience yet to hear Mr Modi outside his country. It was a speech with a guest list to rival even the most extravagant Indian wedding.”

One of Britain’s leading newspapers The Guardian, which has been very vocal against Mr Modi once again took a strong position in its editorial where it called Mr Modi’s UK visit ‘over the top’. Describing the event, the editorial said, “As Narendra Modi and David Cameron leap from crag to crag of ever more outrageous flattery, one might wish that the affair could have been pitched on a somewhat lower level. Mr Modi insists this is ‘a huge moment for our two nations’, while Mr Cameron, announces that 2017 will be a UK-India Year of Culture and claims that ‘the great partnership between India and the UK extends beyond economic ties to the boards of the Bard and the beaches of Bollywood’. This image of a relationship cemented by cricket, Shakespeare, Madame Tussauds and a joint liking for a good curry is not entirely false, but it is misleading.”

In its coverage, The Independent describing the event wrote ‘Pulsating Bhangra beat and kaleidoscope of saris shows true dynamism of Anglo-Indian relations’. The report said, “like some sort of political Rolling Stone, he has become a master of transfixing foreign stadium audiences. Last year he played New York’s Madison Square Garden to a sell-out 18,000 crowd, following in the footsteps of the Beatles and Muhammad Ali.”

While the event was largely appreciated in the leading British media, it also had its share of criticism. The remaining part of Mr Modi’s visit would largely focus on business and economy.