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India's Looming Election
Modi Divides Voters – In Silicon Valley

We knew that Narendra Modi was divisive; his controversial role as Chief Minister during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat continues to be a sore point in the elections this year. What we couldn’t have predicted was that it would be a sore point in American elections.

In the race for the 17th Congressional district in California, which includes Silicon Valley, Modi’s eligibility for an American visa (he is currently denied entry in to the US because of his alleged involvement in the riots) has become a hot-button issue that is dividing both the district and the Indian-American community within it. The Times of India reports:

Democrat congressman Mike Honda set the ball rolling in November 2012 by signing a letter with 25 other Congressmen asking the US to continue denying Modi a visa. Ro Khanna, a young Indian-American contesting the Democrat primaries against Honda, signed on a letter by Modi supporters, asking him to talk to the Indian community first.

And now, Vanila Mathur Singh, associate professor at Stanford University and an anaesthesiologist of Indian-origin, recently joined the race as a Republican candidate. Mathur is a volunteer of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) which has strongly protested the visa ban.

If Modi does get elected this year, which looks extremely likely, this story is indicative of just how much Americans would need to rethink their approach of dealing with him. That Modi’s past creates a similar sort of furor in the US as in India just highlights how tricky that rethink might be.

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  • TommyTwo

    So the US gets on its high horse and demonstrates its moral superiority by refusing to let an Indian politician step on its hallowed soil. Well, until he gets elected as PM. In which case the US will demonstrate its great forward-looking pragmatism which all would do well to emulate.


    (For the record, the hard-line approach against Modi is relatively bipartisan.)

  • ljgude

    It is a species of Islamophobia. Anyone like Modi who is associated with standing up to Muslim violence triggers fear that it will cause another jihadi attack. The communal Stockholm syndrome of the West is the real Islamophobia. Indians or Burmese who fight back are ignored or hushed up – even denied visas. Not all Muslims are jihadis, but some of them are and the Islamophobes are trying to deal with the problem with denial. They are fools, and yes, cowards.

  • Alex Chandy

    After being cornered by Indian Americans, Ro Khanna has recanted his opposition to Mike Honda and is now in favor of the state department imposed ban on Modi.

    Likewise, after the recent expose by the San Francisco Chronicle on Vanila Singh’s links to controversial activist Shalli Kumar, Vanila Singh has also recanted her position and is now supporting a visa ban on Modi. He is also distancing herself from Shalli Kumar.

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