It may be a misunderstanding, a translation error or his showman schtick, but Indian officials are tempering Donald Trump’s expectations that millions of Indians will line up to welcome him next week — by a matter of zeroes.
On his first official visit to India, Trump is due to arrive in the western city of Ahmedabad on Monday and head to a rally with prime minister Narendra Modi at the world’s biggest cricket stadium.
On Tuesday Trump said that Modi “told me we’ll have 7 million people” lining the route from the airport, and on Thursday at a rally in Colorado Springs the president went higher still, with “anywhere from six to 10 million people”.
Numbers are important for Trump, with the brash billionaire and his chief spokesman launching a startling assault on the media on his first full day in office, accusing reporters of downplaying the turnout at his swearing-in ceremony.
Indian officials have indeed organised a big “India Road Show” along the 22-kilometre (14-mile) stretch, including 28 stages for performing artists and decorations depicting the life of independence hero Mahatma Gandhi.
But a host of officials — including India’s foreign secretary and a local member of Modi’s party — were less optimistic, expecting anything from just a few thousand to around 100,000 at most.
The total population of Ahmedabad at the last census was 5.6 million, and that of Gujarat state 63 million. There have been no reports of mass movement into the city ahead of Trump’s visit.
The confusion may be down the common usage when talking big numbers in India of the words “lakh”, meaning 100,000, and “crore”, 10 million, including in English.
Modi for example frequently talks about India’s population of “130 crore” — or 1.3 billion.
It is possible that Indian officials told their US counterparts there would be “five lakh” people to welcome Trump, equating to 500,000, but that in translation this somehow became five million.
Trump and First Lady Melania are due to head from Ahmedabad to the Taj Mahal south of New Delhi later Monday before formal talks with Modi in the capital the next day.