DUBAI: Around 15,000 supporters of Rahul Gandhi, the president of India’s leading opposition party, on Friday were turned away from a packed rally in the UAE, ahead of his address to thousands of expatriates.
The Dubai International Cricket Stadium, where the Indian National Congress politician spoke to non-resident Indians (NRIs), reached its crowd capacity an hour before the event was due to start.
Stadium officials were forced to turn away disappointed followers of the party leader, many of whom had traveled long distances from cities throughout the UAE to hear Gandhi speak.
Those who secured a seat inside the venue cheered and waved banners during Gandhi’s address, which lasted for more than 40 minutes.
With elections due to take place in India later this year, Gandhi spoke of the important role he hoped NRIs could play in shaping India’s future.
Gandhi said: “I am so proud of NRIs living in the UAE, and their major contribution to the development of this beautiful country. Now, I want you to play the same role in developing your own homeland.”
He spoke of India’s “great religions and cultures,” and the need for communities to work together to tackle key economic challenges, such as unemployment and the agricultural sector. He also promised the crowd that when his party gets into power, it will designate special seats in the upper Parliament for NRIs.
Gandhi was speaking in the same stadium where India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the community during a visit in 2015.
Earlier on Friday, Gandhi was greeted by leading UAE government officials, visited labor camps to meet Indian workers and held talks with members of the Indian business community. He is also scheduled to visit the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.
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