Washington, DC – The name of Narendra Modi, projected prime ministerial candidate for the main opposition Indian party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming 2014 elections, continues to be in the news due to an ongoing controversy over a 2005 US visa denial issue and a call for the US Congress’ House Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into actions taken by his US supporters.
A senior BJP leader and a former Bollywood star, Shatrughan Sinha, recently was quoted as saying that the US will have to grant Modi a visa, once Modi becomes India’s prime minister.
Modi was denied a US visa in 2005 on the grounds of alleged human rights violations after the 2002 sanguinary Gujarat riots where over a thousand were killed and thousands more injured.
Sinha’s comments came just days after a question raised by India America Today at the US State Department briefing elicited a clear reply that there would be no change in the US visa policy.
Asked to comment whether there had been any consideration of the status of the visa for Narendra Modi, Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told journalists at the daily State Department briefing on November 5 that there will be, “No change in our longstanding visa policy. He’s welcome to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant.”
When asked to clarify whether Modi had even applied for a visa, Harf responded, “Not to my knowledge. Again, visa applications are, I believe, confidential – or at least the details of them. I can check on that, but not to my knowledge,” she added, confirming earlier reports that Modi had not applied for a US visa.
In a further rebuke of Modi’s standing in the US, Republican leaders on November 16 denied extending an invitation to Narendra Modi to address Congressional leaders and Indian Americans via video link on November 19.
In an email to organizers, Republican Congressman Pete Sessions from Texas said, “It has come to my attention that the National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI) recently used my name and image on an invitation to an event that it is hosting in Washington, DC, on November 19. At no point in time did I agree to attend this event, nor did I approve of the use of my name or image on this invitation.”
“Further, I did not see the invitation until it had been distributed publicly. Had I known that my name and image were on this invitation before it was distributed, I would have requested that they both be removed. Additionally, I have contacted NIAPPI to request that they remove my name and image from this invitation and that they explicitly ask my approval before using my name or image in any of their materials going forward,” added the email from Congressman Sessions.
Chicago businessman Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, an ardent supporter of Modi, was served with a “cease and desist” letter by the office of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), advising him to stop misrepresenting the Republican party and one of its top lawmakers.
Earlier this year Kumar had invited a group of Republican lawmakers to Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, to meet Modi and secured an invitation for him from the visiting US lawmakers to visit the US. When questioned at that time by India America Today, the State Department immediately denied any change in its visa policy towards Modi.
According to informed sources, the “Bharat Divas” November 19 Capitol Hill event, organized by the NIAPPI and headed by Kumar, was trying to piggyback on an event organized by the House Republican Conference (HRC), a top Republican body chaired by Representatives Cathy Rodgers and Ed Royce (CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Republican event, “The Indian-American Meetup,” organized by the Republican Party Conference and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is scheduled to be addressed by top Republican leaders.
“The meet-up will provide a unique opportunity for leaders of Indian American communities across the country to connect with Members of Congress to discuss legislative and policy priorities, both on the domestic and foreign policy fronts,” an invitation letter signed jointly by Rodgers and Royce said.
Contacted for a statement, Kumar responded, “We stand by the NIAPPI invitation to celebrate the Bharat Day at the Capitol Hill on Nov. 19th with full support of the House Republican Conference and other leaders. It is going ahead as planned, with minor changes.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) called on the House Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into the fraudulent use of the House Seal, and the fake projection of GOP support for the event. It has also called upon Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers to expel Kumar from the HRC’s Indian American Advisory Board. “A person who openly resorts to fraud to promote a human rights abuser like Narendra Modi should not be representing the Indian American community at the House Republican Conference,” said Biju Mathew, one of the founding members of the coalition.
The CAG, a coalition of organizations and individuals in the US and Canada that came together in response to the Gujarat genocide to demand accountability and justice, complained that the promotional material for the “Bharat Divas” event carried the seal of the US House of Representatives, as well as pictures of the top leadership of the Republican Party, including those of Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
According to official figures, the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat resulted in the deaths of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus; 2,500 people were injured, and 223 more were reported missing.