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Major embarrassment for BJP: Republican Party denies inviting Modi

November 16, 2013 17:05 IST

Republican Party leaders have denied extending an invitation to Narendra Modi to address Congressional leaders and Indian-Americans via video link next week.

They have accused a United States-based supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate of "misrepresenting" their party.

Chicago-based Shalli Kumar, a supporter of Modi, has been served with a "cease and desist" letter by the office of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, advising him to stop misrepresenting the Republican Party and one of its top lawmakers.

Amidst mounting criticism from secular forces, Republican Party leaders on Friday said they have not invited Modi to address them via video link at the Capitol Hill on November 19, in what could be a major embarrassment for the Gujarat chief minister.

Kumar, who had earlier this year taken a group of Republican lawmakers to Gandhinagar to meet Modi, was sent the ‘cease and desist’ letter by Rodgers, after it was brought to her notice that the Indian-American has issued a flyer in which he had inappropriately used the House seal and also put names and pictures of several top Republican lawmakers without their permission.

In a letter, which was circulated along with Kumar's invitation letter, Rodgers had mentioned about "Bharat Divas" and the invitation to Modi to address the Indian-American-community and the Congressional leaders via video link.

Rodgers' office did not respond to questions on this letter.

A close associate of Modi in the US confirmed that the Gujarat chief minister was not addressing the controversial Capitol Hill meeting.

“He (Modi) will not address the November 19 event," said Jagdish Sewani of the Indian-American Public Affairs Committee.

"Please be assured that Mr Modi has not been invited to address the House GOP Meetup. We have sent a 'cease and desist' letter to Mr Shalli Kumar advising him to stop misrepresenting the GOP Conference and Chairman McMorris Rodgers," Nicolas D Muzin, Director of Outreach & Coalitions, House Republican Conference, said in an email.

The email was in response to some Indian-Americans who had raised the issue of Modi being invited to address the Republican Party's annual meet at the Capitol Hill for Indian-Americans.

"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 Administration about steps we can take to properly distance ourselves from his actions," Muzin said in the email.

Congressman Pete Sessions, in a statement, distanced himself from the November 19 event at the Capitol Hill, organised by the National Indian American Public Policy Institute, which is headed by Kumar.

This event was being organised on the same day when Rogers and Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had invited scores of Indian-Americans from across the country at the ‘Indian-American Meetup’.

'The Indian-American Meetup', organised by the Republican Party Conference and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is scheduled to be addressed by top Republican leaders.

"The Meetup 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 priories, both on the domestic and foreign policy fronts," an invitation letter signed jointly by Rodgers and Royce said.

"We want to hear about the issues that are important to you, so that we can work together to secure a more prosperous America," the invitation said.

In his flyer attached with the "Bharat Divas" invitation letter, Kumar named and put pictures of several top Republican lawmakers as expected attendees. Many of them on Friday said they were not aware of it.

"It has come to my attention that the 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," Congressman Sessions said in a statement.

"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," he said.

"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," Sessions said.

Kumar could not be reached either by phone or email.

Meanwhile, in a letter to House of Representative Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Coalition Against Genocide complained that the promotional material for the "Bharat Divas" carries 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.

"We urge you to issue a statement distancing yourself from the event and the organisers, and ensure that you do not aid and abet a misrepresentation of the Republican Party's position on India," the Coalition said in a letter.

"One of the deeply alarming aspects of this event is that all the 'senior leaders' from India invited to this event are associated with the Hindutva supremacist movement and its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi of Gujarat, who will address the gathering via satellite video," the letter said.

The matter has been taken up seriously with the organisers of the "Bharat Divas" and they have been asked to remove it immediately.

Image: Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers ' Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Lalit K Jha In Washington, DC
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