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June 2006

A few months after they took to the streets to protest President Bush's visit to India, millions of Indians rallied on May 30 to show their support for former President Bill Clinton. The rallies, which disrupted traffic in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities, were organized as part of ABCD (Adopt Bill Clinton Day).

Clinton has made five visits to India since 2000 and charmed Indians in much the same way he charmed Americans during his presidential campaigns. "He is as Indian as he is American," said Manoj Shah, director of the Clinton Indian Association (CIA) , which helped organize the rallies. "In fact, many Indians actually believe he has ‘Indian' in his name. They call him ‘Bill Clindian.'"

The CIA is trying to persuade the Indian government to offer Clinton dual citizenship. "Clinton visits India more often than many NRIs," Shah said. "Some of them maintain Indian citizenship, but visit India only when their sons need brides."

But the CIA faces opposition from a rival group that calls itself the BBCC (Beware of Bill Clinton Committee).

"Clinton still has political ambitions," warned BBCC director Billy Jindal, no relation to Bobby. "If we give him Indian citizenship, the next thing you know, we'll be swearing him in as Prime Minister."

Shah laughed at that prospect, noting Sonia Gandhi's struggles. "Clinton is more interested in returning to the White House as First Gentleman," he said. "All we are trying to do is show our appreciation to him. He loves India and he has shown it in many ways."

Indeed, during his first visit to India in 2000, Clinton was widely quoted as saying, "India is a wonderful country. It has nice scenery, attractive women, low taxes, attractive women, delicious food and, most importantly, attractive women."

He has taken such a liking to Indian food – butter chicken, lentils, Malabar fish curry and naans are among his favorites – that he often visits Bombay Palace, a chic restaurant in Manhattan, and has his own table right next to the buffet. It is called the "Bill Hillary Table," because after his lavish meals, Clinton has been known to leave without paying, saying to the manager, "Bill Hillary."

Clinton has also endeared himself to Indians through his philanthropy. Last year, he visited India to help with tsunami relief and an anti-AIDS campaign. "He is such a great man," Shah said. "His heart is almost as big as his stomach."

During the ABCD rallies, people waved an assortment of signs and banners, carrying messages such as: "Clinton is an American-Indian," "Adopt Our American Friend," and "We Love You, Mr. Hillary."

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