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Sonal Shah denies links with VHP, RSS

Indian American Sonal Shah, who has been appointed in US President-elect Obama's transition team, rubbishes reports of her links with RSS and VHP.

world Updated: Nov 11, 2008 14:57 IST

Prominent Indian American, Sonal Shah, who has been appointed in US President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, has rubbished reports of her links with Indian right wing organisations like RSS and VHP and has come out with condemnation of "politics of division".

An eminent economist, Shah, who has been appointed as an advisory board member by Obama to assist his team in smooth transition of power said, however, she was proud to be associated with NGOs dedicated to humanitarian missions, specifically for their work for quake-relief in Gujarat.

40-year-old Shah is part of a panel comprising individuals with significant private and public sector experience who will offer their expertise in their respective fields to Obama's transition team.

"My personal politics has nothing in common with views espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or any such organisation. I've never been involved in Indian politics, and never intend to do so".

Shah said in a statement to PTI, "I've always condemned any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool."

She described as "Internet rumours" and "factually inaccurate," the reports linking her to "Hindu Nationalist groups through a variety of tenuous connections".

She said, she was proud to have helped the earthquake victims of Gujarat, through NGOs working there.

"As regards, relief work in 2001, I'm proud to have helped Gujarat earthquake victims, purely on the basis of humanitarian grounds. I've been privileged to do as a founder of the NGO Indicorps and as the Director of Global Development for Google.Org," she said. In the statement issued in Houston, where she has been brought up after moving from Mumbai in 1972, Shah said she did not subscribe to the views of "such Hindu nationalist groups, and never have".

Elated by her selection by President-elect Obama, Sonal is eagerly looking to serve in this time of transition.

"As an Indian-American, serving on the Obama-Biden transition team is a unique privilege. A presidential transition is always a time of excitement, and, in some cases, of rumours and unfounded gossip," she said.

She along with other members of the advisory board will help the transition team headed by former White House chief of staff John Podesta, longtime Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, and Pete Rouse, the President-elect's Senate chief of staff.

Shah, who was named "Person of the Year 2003" by "India Abroad" publication, currently works for Google's philanthropic wing.

Several Indian-American groups have protested the appointment of Sonal Shah in Obama's transition team, claiming she is closely associated with VHP and warned against Hindutva "infiltration" into the power centres of the US society.

In a joint statement, Indian Coalition Against Genocide and Indian American Coalition for Pluralism and Non Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India had sought Shah's clarification over her association with the VHP and its "mother organisation" RSS.

Indian Christian Forum (ICF), an umbrella organisation for Indian American Christians, expressed "grave concern" over her appointment as a member of Obama's transition team.

"Although we feel no one should be pre-judged on their association, Shah's background creates tremendous uneasiness among freedom loving people in our community that overwhelmingly voted for Obama," it said.