This article titled “Hyderabad prepares for Ivanka Trump tour with rainbows and lookalikes” was written by Michael Safi in Hyderabad, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th November 2017 20.28 Asia/Kolkata
If she happens to glance from the window of her motorcade as it courses through Hyderabad, Ivanka Trump will see little dirt, no dogs, and formerly drab bridges painted in rainbow colours in her honour.
The White House adviser, businesswoman and presidential daughter will descend on the southern Indian city on Tuesday for an annual summit to connect entrepreneurs with potential funders, which this year focuses on empowering women.
The guest list is long and includes senior Indian government officials, although the real star of the show is beyond doubt. Ivanka is everywhere in Hyderabad this week: in televised clips played on loop by news channels; on billboards beside India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi; and as the beaming face of a mannequin outside Mohammed Cap Mart, a bustling store near the medieval-era Charminar mosque.
Hundreds of Hyderabadis have flocked to the store for selfies alongside the Ivanka mannequin and one of her father, Donald, and even next to one with the face of her husband, Jared Kushner.
“He is famous,” said Mohammad Ilyas Bukhari, the shop owner. “Who does not know about the son-in-law of Trump?”
One student, Faisal, posing between the Ivanka model dressed in a modest felt dress and the US president wearing a characteristic red tie over a bulging stomach, said: “I am excited about one thing, she is coming, and so the government is cleaning the roads. We are happy for this reason only.”
Ivanka will deliver a a keynote address on Tuesday, and a dinner with Modi is scheduled for the same day at the Taj Falaknuma, a resplendent palace turned luxury hotel.
Workers and police also descended on Golkonda Fort, an archaeological wonder overlooking the city, where a lunch is likely to take place in her honour.
For most Hyderabadis, the summit will be experienced only as a noticeable makeover of their city. Roads have been relaid, murals touched up, and lights strewn along the paths that Ivanka will take to various venues.
Rumours about the zealousness of the cleanup have stirred tension. A news report last week alleged stray dogs were being carted off to a government facility and culled.
The charge is strongly denied by JD Wilson, the assistant director of the city’s veterinary department. “Being a Christian and a vet I know the importance of animals,” he said. “We don’t kill animals, we are just catching them for sake of their welfare.”
The dogs are being sterilised at “animal birth control centres” and will be released back into their street habitats after three or four days, he insists. “It is our regular practice.”
Still, no one denies the dogcatchers have been hard at work: nine strays have been removed from around Ivanka’s hotel, local media reported.
Another rumour, that homeless people have been driven out of the city to be out of Ivanka’s sight, attracted an appropriate response. “This is fake news,” said Vinoy Kumar Singh, the director general of Telengana state prisons. “We started our drive against the menace of beggary three months back.”
In fact, says Singh, to prove the homelessness scheme had nothing to do with Ivanka’s arrival, he ordered it to be suspended after the stories circulated, and not to resume until 1 December.
The Guardian has visited the facility where the homeless people have been taken, a copper coloured building adjoining a city prison in the southern districts of the city. About 262 people were picked up in the month before the programme was suspended, said K Subhash, an officer on duty.
About 50 men remained and the rest have been placed back in the care of relatives in Telangana or surrounding states, Subhash said.
The men appeared at ease in the facility: clean, fed and dressed in fresh clothing. “I don’t know who Ivanka is, but I am happy she has come to Hyderabad,” one said. “I have been shifted to this ashram and get tea and food on time.”
All those questioned in the city agreed that Ivanka was a welcome guest, though her precise duties in the White House appeared as unclear to Indians as they were to most Americans. “She is working hard to develop the centre and the states through agriculture,” one man, Udaykumar, offered.
What will matter most to India is the symbolic power of her presence, a sign of healthy relations between the Modi government and the Trump administration.
“People have tried different ways to engage [with Trump], whether it is the Chinese government, or playing golf with Shinzō Abe and eating burgers at the club,” said Dhruva Jaishankar, a foreign policy fellow at Brookings India. “It is part of diplomacy to have that personal touch.”
For Indians, said Jaishankar , it is not usual for politics to be a family business. Sanjay Gandhi, the son of the former prime minister Indira Gandhi, was notorious for administering a national mass sterilisation programme; her grandson, Rahul, is preparing to become the fourth member of the family to inherit the Congress party leadership next month.
“It doesn’t raise as many eyebrows in India as it does in the United States,” he said.
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