There was an instant online clamour when HT on Tuesday broke a story confirming the US ambassador to India was planning to meet BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi in Gujarat. The US attempt to establish a relationship after a chill that dates to 2005 will help the Gujarat chief minister in the Lok Sabha elections, an online poll conducted by HT indicated.
The US had imposed a visa ban to rebuke Modi after Gujarat communal riots in 2002. The clashes that killed more than 1,200 people still haunt Modi who in December last year said he was “shaken to the core by the mindless violence”.
Of the 7,458 people surveyed by 7pm on Tuesday, 77% said they believed the recognition of Modi by the US would help him in the Lok Sabha elections. The figure indicates they believe Modi’s riot-stricken image will improve once the US embraces his growing popularity ahead of the general elections.
Eighteen per cent of the respondents, however, do not agree that the US move will do any good to the BJP leader. The remaining 5% can’t make up their mind on whether the thaw in the Modi-US relationship will make any difference at all.
US ambassador Nancy Powell last week asked and received permission from South Block to meet the Gujarat chief minister, Indian and American told HT. A US embassy spokesman confirmed the appointment, saying it was “part of our concentrated outreach to senior political and economic leaders which began in November to highlight the US-India relationship”.
The US cannot offer a visa during the election campaign for fear of being accused of trying to influence Indian domestic politics. But the signal being sent is unmistakable: the US is open to doing business with Modi.