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.