Bid to arrange US visa for Modi for Gujarati conference

June 17th, 2008 - 2:43 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi
By Parveen Chopra
New York, June 17 (IANS) Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been invited to address the World Gujarati Conference in New Jersey in August but since he was denied a visa in 2005, his supporters are trying hard to ensure that he is allowed to come to the US this time. “Unless the US consulate gives a surety that it will grant Modi the visa, he will not apply,” Sunil Nayak, president of the Association of Indian Americans of North America (AIANA), which is hosting the conference, told IANS.

“It is not just a question of one individual getting the visa. The prestige of a state is at stake,” he added.

Chandru Bhambhra, president of Friends of Overseas BJP (FOBJP), said: “Modi told me some months ago that he was not going to apply for a US visa since he faces the risk of denial, which could hurt his reputation.”

But if the government of a state like New Jersey invites him, then it will be a different matter, Bhambra added.

Modi was denied a visa to visit the US after his allegedly biased handling of the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002. He has since been forced to address gatherings of his supporters and Gujaratis in the US through video conferencing or live telecast.

Nayak of AIANA is hopeful that some breakthrough in the visa situation will be made in the two and a half months before the Aug 29-31 non-political conference.

“Modi is helping the state and its culture. His presence here will help people reconnect with their cultural roots in Gujarat. If he is not able to come in person, we will think of an alternative, which will certainly be better than mere video conferencing,” he said.

Modi spoke to his supporters in the US via satellite TV in February at an event in New Jersey which marked BJP’s electoral victory in Gujarat and was organised by FOBJP.

Rajesh Shukla, the coordinator of the event, had then castigated the US administration for denying the visa to an “elected leader of a big Indian state, while tinpot dictators and murderers are welcomed”. It is for Gujarat and Gujaratis to decide what is good or bad for them, he said.

The second World Gujarati Conference, called Chaalo Gujarat, is a major three-day event in Edison, organised by immigrants in the US to reconnect the younger generation with their place of origin. Thirty-five thousand people from India and the Gujarati diaspora are expected to attend.

Prominent invitees other than Modi include Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Sam Pitroda, Morari Bapu, Jagdish Bhagwati and Pankaj Udhas.

Programmes include a multi-screen film on Gujarat, a gallery on the legends of Gujarat and a 3-D exhibition of famous places in the state. Several seminars on issues including health, immigration, investments and art and literature will also be held.

Religious discourses, trade shows, fashion shows, celebrity performances, traditional dances including tribal dances and a poet’s conclave will be organised as part of the event.

The first Chaalo Gujarat event was held in 2006 and drew Gujaratis from all over the world.

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