The US business delegation that met Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar on Thursday may have paid between $3,000 and $16,000 (Rs. 1.62 lakh to Rs. 8.68 lakh) per head for the entire Indian trip.
The Chicago-based National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI), the organisers of the delegation, had circulated an invitation “limited to (an) elite group of American businesspersons”. Its founder, Shalabh Kumar, was associated with the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) in the past, according to sources.
Gujarat apart, the itinerary included Rajasthan, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab with scheduled visits to the Taj Mahal, Ranthambore tiger reserve, Rambagh Palace Jaipur, Lake Palace Udaipur and the Golden Temple. Also included: A ‘Bollywood Extravaganza’ and dinner hosted by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
According to media reports, the team comprising businessmen and four members of the US Congress paid these amounts to visit and seek business opportunities across India.
However, OFBJP convener Vijay Jolly, who actively engaged with the delegation, rejected these reports. “I was told by Shalabh Kumar that the entire trip of the Congressmen and business leaders was sponsored by his organisation.”
Jolly also told HT that former US Speaker Newt Gingrich had interacted with Modi for 30 minutes via videoconference on Friday evening. On Thursday, the visiting lawmakers had praised the business atmosphere in Gujarat and invited Modi to the US. However, the official US stand on not granting the CM a visa remains unchanged.