Upbeat Trump leaves for 'biggest event' ever in India

Sebastian Smith
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US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump leave for India

President Donald Trump left for India on Sunday, buoyed by disarray among his Democratic opponents and predicting that "many millions" will greet him on a lightning visit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Things could hardly be going better for the Republican as his campaign for reelection in November gathers pace, following his acquittal earlier this month after the House impeached him for abuse of power related to pressure on Ukraine.

Despite a first term dogged by near constant scandals and investigations, Trump feels he can win against the growing Democratic frontrunner, leftist Bernie Sanders, and he is clearly chuffed at the idea of huge crowds in India.

"I look forward to being with the people of India," Trump said as he left the White House on his first trip to the world's biggest democracy.

"We're going to have many millions and millions of people," he said. "I hear it's going to be a big event, some people say the biggest event they ever had in India. That's what the prime minister told me."

Trump has something of an obsession with big crowds, frequently boasting about the size of his rallies, compared to those of his Democratic opponents.

Ahead of the India trip, which will see him and his wife Melania visit the Taj Mahal and attend a rally with Modi in the world's largest cricket stadium, he has repeatedly mused on the "millions" he expects to turn out.

Enormous crowds are guaranteed during the one-night trip, given Modi's own prowess at staging mega-rallies.

But Indian officials said they didn't expect more than 100,000 people at any one time. The figure of millions touted repeatedly by Trump may be the result of a misunderstanding or translation problem, experts said.

Modi visited the United States last year, when he and Trump made a joint appearance before tens of thousands of Indian-Americans at a football stadium in Houston.

The US president arrives in the western state of Gujarat where Modi's record while chief minister as a reformer and flag-bearer of Hindu nationalism catapulted him to the national stage in 2014.

However, despite the colorful celebration of the Trump-Modi friendship, the deal is not expected to include significant progress on a comprehensive US-Indian trade deal.

- Betting on 4 more years -

Trump is briefly leaving a country gripped by mounting election fever.

Despite stubbornly low popularity figures and the stain of his recent impeachment, Trump is betting that a strong economy and a Democratic opposition beset by infighting will hand him another four years in the White House.

For months, experts have predicted that a moderate Democrat able to poach wavering Republicans and independents could seriously challenge Trump. Instead, the primary races appear to be pointing to the polarizing Sanders becoming the nominee.

The self-declared democratic socialist, who calls for radical reorganization of the US economy, won a landslide in the latest race in Nevada on Saturday, leaving competitors scrambling to prevent his momentum from becoming unstoppable.

Trump has made no secret of relishing the idea of running against a lifelong leftist -- someone that the Republicans will paint as extreme.

As he left for India, Trump called the Nevada contest "a great win for Bernie Sanders."

Trump then played on Democratic in-fighting, suggesting that the moderate establishment could try to rig things to stop a Sanders juggernaut.

"The Democrats are treating Bernie Sanders very unfairly," Trump said, predicting Sanders would become his opponent "unless they cheat him out of it."