Calling Narendra Modi a leader with “national appeal” and virtually anointing him the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, party president Rajnath Singh said he would raise the issue of denial of US visa to the Gujarat chief minister during his meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“I will appeal to the US government to clear US visa to the Gujarat CM,” said Singh late Saturday, kicking off his five-day US tour with a news conference in New York. The tour was arranged by some of Modi’s supporters in the Indian-American community.
The United States first denied Modi a visa in 2005 over allegations that his government did nothing to stop the 2002 riots. He has not applied for one since.
Though there has been no change in the US position, the subject is being debated internally in the administration and on the Hill as Modi takes centrestage in the BJP. The party, too, had so far maintained it was not unduly bothered by the visa denial.
Three US lawmakers who met Modi in Gujarat recently had promised to work towards getting him a visa. One of them raised the matter at a congressional hearing subsequently.
At the news conference, Singh gushed about Modi’s appeal and stature while ruling himself out of the race to be the BJP’s PM candidate.
“He is a crowd-puller not only in Gujarat but also in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — from north to south, east to west. He is one single leader with national appeal,” he said.
“It’s not necessary that the party president should also be a crowd-puller and a prime ministerial candidate. I have an assignment to do. I have a job to deliver — victory of the party in the 2014 elections.”
“Seven months before the elections, I have nominated Narendra Modi chairman of the party’s election campaign committee. What is unusual in that?... I have named him campaign head in view of his image, popularity and commitment to the party,” Singh added.
The BJP chief — who is accompanied by party MP Ananth Kumar and leaders Vijay Jolly and Sudanshu Trivedi — is scheduled to speak on India and Afghanistan at an event in Washington, and has several private and public meetings lined up too.