The Republican leadership is incensed over the attempt by some Hindutva elements in the United States to promote Gujarat
Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s
prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to
piggy-back on the first-ever GOP Indian
Congressional sources told India Abroad that
although the Meetup had gone on without a
hitch because the Hindutva attempt had been
detected in time, the efforts by Modi’s supporters in the US — led by Chicago-based entrepreneur Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar — had cast a pall
over the carefully planned strategy to woo Indian Americans to the GOP, including the majority percentage of the community who have traditionally remained in the Democratic camp.
The GOP leadership discovered that Kumar
had circulated a flyer under the aegis of the
National Indian American Public Policy Institute, which he
had founded, that indicated that Modi would address the
meeting via a video link.
The flyer had a House seal and showcased Modi as one of
the speakers along with other prominent House
Republicans with all of their photographs, apparently used
without the permission of any of these lawmakers.
On the eve of the Meetup the Republican leadership
denied that it had extended any invitation to Modi and castigated Kumar for ‘misrepresenting’ the Republican Party.
The office of US Congresswoman Cathy McMorris
Rodgers, chair, House Republican Conference, served
Kumar with a ‘cease and desist’ letter to stop misrepresenting the Party and the intent of the Meetup.
Nicolas D Muzin, director, outreach and coalitions,
House Republican Conference, informed journalists about
this in an e-mail and said, ‘Additionally, I believe he
(Kumar) is in violation of ethics rules regarding improper
use of the Congressional seal, stationary, and indicia. I have
been in touch with the House Committee on Admi-
nistration about steps we can take to properly distance our-
selves from his actions.’
US Congressman Pete Sessions, one of the lawmakers
whose name and visage were included in Kumar’s flyer,
according to his aides was “hopping mad.”
Sessions issued a statement saying, ‘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 invita-
tion 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.’
Congressional sources close to the senior Republican
leadership lay much of the blame for Kumar’s actions at the
feet of Rodgers, who they said had been cultivated by
Kumar to the extent that she was “pretty much willing to do
whatever he wanted.”
They noted that Kumar, under the NIAPPI banner, had
taken Rodgers and some other GOP lawmakers to India
earlier this year and gotten them an audience with Modi
and pointed out that she had provided Kumar with an
accompanying letter to his flyer, mentioning ‘Bharat Divas’
and the invitation to Modi to address the Meetup.
Despite this correspondent and others buttonholing
Rodgers and some of her aides on the day of the event as to
why she had provided such a letter, the Congresswoman
rushed off without answering the questions.
Earlier, calls to her office and asking for a response on
this letter did not elicit any answers.
These sources said that for all of Muzin’s assurances that
Kumar had been severely reprimanded by the HRC and
Rodgers’s office, they pointed out that he had not been
removed from the HRC’s Advisory Council.
According to one source, “This idiotic effort has backfired
to the extent that most of the lawmakers will now be on the
defensive when it comes to Mr Modi.”
Another sarcastically quipped, “I wonder if Mr Kumar is
working for the anti-Modi forces.”
The purported Modi appearance via video link began to
unravel when anti-Modi forces in the US, led by the
Coalition Against Genocide, got wind of the flyer and
began contacting the offices of the lawmakers featured in
The CAG said in a statement, ‘After five days of phone
calls, letters, document verification and hun-
dreds of e-mails between CAG activists and
Congressional staffers, several members of the
House Republican Conference whose names
had been used to endorse the Modi event have
washed their hands off the event…’
‘CAG activists spoke with the offices of Rep
Greg Walden and Rep Bob Goodlatte seeking
clarification, since their pictures appeared on
the flyer. Staffers from both Congressmen’s
offices stated categorically that they were
unaware of the event, or that the Congressmen’s
names and pictures were being used without
authorization to promote it.’
The 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 also called upon Rodgers to expel Kumar
from the HRC’s Indian American Advisory
Board and publicly disassociate herself from
‘The NIAPPI, the key agent behind this misrepresenta-
tion and fraudulent promotional tactics, is a Hindu nation-
alist front organization posing as a public policy institute.
It is a resting ground for RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh) stalwarts,’ CAG claimed.
As a consequence of Kumar’s failed attempt, the CAG and
other anti-Modi forces were able to get a bipartisan
Congressional resolution introduced in the House of
Representatives calling on the US government to continue
the policy of denying a visa to Modi on the grounds of religious freedom violations.
The resolution also called on India to protect the rights
and freedoms of religious minorities and urged the Obama
administration to include this on the agenda as part of the
US-India Strategic Dialogue.
The resolution was introduced by Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison from Minnesota and Republican
Congressman Joe Pitts from Pennsylvania and co-spon-sored by more than a dozen lawmakers and referred to the
Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia and
Pacific, which has jurisdiction over matters pertaining to
Ellison said, ‘All Indians should have the right to practice
their faith freely, or to change their faith if they so choose.
India is big enough for all its citizens. Its best leaders have
worked to promote unity among its diverse populations,
Pitts said, ‘The victims of events like the riots in Gujarat
The Ellison-Pitts resolution was condemned by the
How Modi fans
the GOP Indian
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, center, with Cathy McMorris Rodgers, to his left, and other GOP lawmakers in India in March.
Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar, to Modi’s left second row, had organized the visit under the NIAPPI banner.
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