Indian American community divided over PM Modi`s visit to US

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming monumental first visit to the United States got embroiled in controversy after a section of the Indian American community tried to overshadow others in planning and taking credit for the grand welcome planned for him.

Last Updated: Jul 16, 2014, 09:44 AM IST

Washington/New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming monumental first visit to the United States got embroiled in controversy after a section of the Indian American community tried to overshadow others in planning and taking credit for the grand welcome planned for him.

Although the issuing has been brewing for a while, the matter took a serious turn at meeting held in New Jersey last week. The proceedings at the meeting called to discuss Modi’s visit in September was allegedly hijacked by Chicago based oncologist Bharat Barai.

Barai, the self-appointed chair of the meeting, claiming to the voice of the Gujarati community from New Jersey and Chicago, tried to outline contours of the celebration of Modi’s visit. However, his unilateral actions led to strong opposition from many of the attendees, including Ramesh Patel, Chairman of Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) and Ankur Vaidya, president of the body.
FIA is one of the largest umbrella organizations in the Indian-American community, representing various issues affecting the growing community, and is responsible for the world’s largest annual
India Day Parade in New York.

Vaidya and Patel questioned Barai’s power of authority and his right to be claim to be the spokesperson of the diverse diaspora of Indian Americans in the US.

Order was somewhat restored after Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, Consul General of India, New York, took to the stage.

Mulay reminded the powerful group of Indian-American influencers that Modi’s message to
his government and the people of India is that there should be no prominence seeking amongst leaders and community and stressed that the event to welcome Modi to US should be conducted with the same principle, adding that the celebrations should involve all races and religions of Indian people, from all different home states in India living in all states of the United States.
Mulay also warned that, and if the community fails to come together on its own then he will be
forced to put together an event committee himself.

Importantly, the New Jersey fiasco came a day after noted NRI businessman Shalabh Kumar and Anil Monga met Mulay at the Indian Consulate in New York, during which Kumar
offered to contribute one million USD anonymously, should the there be no prominence to an select group or individual in the planning for Modi`s welcome by the Indian American community.

Kumar suggested that in order to keep the peace and ensure fairness to all during
the Prime Minister’s visit, the practice of seating many others with the dignitary on the dais should be done away with.

Kumar, an inventor and the Chairman and CEO of AVG group of companies, opined that the event should be conducted in a manner that would let mainstream America know and realise the import of Modi`s election as Prime Minister of India and that the event should turn out to be a proud event for India.

Kumar, official Chairman of Indian American Advisory Council to House Republican Conference charged to advise US Congress on legislation important to Indian Americans and India, has also offered help by mobilising his extensive network of senior Congressmen on the Capitol Hill to make the event a grand success.

Kumar is one of Modi`s most influential supporters in the US and hogged the limelight after he organised the high-profile visit to Gujarat by three US lawmakers in March last year. The event was seen as one the most significant signals that the US was keen to build bridges with Modi.

Later then US ambassador to Indian Nancy Powell made the outreach official when she flew down to Ahmedabad to meet Modi.