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Trump’s powerful aide Bannon once had plans for India

The White House chief strategist wanted to open an Indian edition of alt-right news publication Breitbart News.

world Updated: Mar 04, 2017 07:08 IST
Yashwant Raj
Donald Trump

Bannon compared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to former US President Ronald Reagan.(NYT)

As CEO of alt-right news publication Breitbart News, Steven Bannon seriously considered an Indian edition, according to an Indian writer he pitched the idea to in 2015

Amit Varma recounted the pitch in a blog he wrote on November 29, 2016, just a week after Trump was elected president.

“Exactly one year ago, on November 17, 2015, I sat opposite Steve Bannon in his NYC (New York City) office as he asked me if I’d be interested in starting Breitbart India. I had won the Bastiat Prize (a journalism award) a few days before, and a lady who was one of the founders of Brietbart, and of certain leaders in the Republican Party, got in touch with the organisers to ask if she could meet me.”

Varma didn’t name the “lady” in the blog, but The Daily Beast, which first reported in it, named her as a major Trump campaign donor and an investor in Brietbart News.

Varma refused the offer. “‘It’s incongruent,’ I said. ‘There is no analog of American conservatism in India. The Indian right is driven by bigotry and nativism, with no deeper guiding philosophy behind it. You will not find any Burkean conservatives here. Don’t come.’”

To which, he wrote, Bannon said, “‘Well, we think that (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is India’s (former US president Ronald) Reagan.”

In his blog, Verma writes he didn’t know what alt-right was at the time.

“Now that I know more about the alt-right, that thought is scary. I’m still glad that I didn’t explore their offer further. I could have been somewhat richer, maybe even influential, if I’d taken it up—but I sleep well at night now, and that’s what matters.”

Talking to Hindustan Times, Varma said he had nothing more to add to his blog. “That was a personal post, and I have nothing to add to that. I also felt mildly guilty for reporting what was a private conversation — although neither of those two would have any issues with how they came across in that. I merely reported an honest difference of worldviews.”

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