By Arun Kumar
Washington: An Indian court’s rejection of a petition seeking the prosecution of Narendra Modi for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots has brought no change in US visa policy for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
The Gujarat chief minister, who was denied a diplomatic visa to the US in 2005 over the riots, was welcome to apply for a visa and wait for a review which will be grounded in American law, a State Department official said Thursday repeating the US formulation.
“There has been no change to our visa policy,” the official said. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader was “welcome to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant,” he said but wouldn’t “speculate about what the outcome might be.”
The official’s comments came in response to an Ahmedabad court’s rejection of a petition challenging the Special Investigation Team’s closure report giving a clean chit to Modi and 58 others.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported the court verdict and the Indian government ordering a probe into allegations that a top Modi aide oversaw wide-ranging surveillance of a woman on his behalf as “Victory, and Setback, for Indian Opposition Leader”.
“The fiery head of India’s leading opposition party, who remains under pressure for his handling of an ethnic riot 11 years ago, won a victory on Thursday in one of the many disputes dogging him as he seeks to become India’s next prime minister, but faced a setback in another,” it said in a report.
“Neither case is likely to derail Mr. Modi’s growing popularity in India, since his tough-guy image is a big part of his appeal. Yet taken together, the cases demonstrate why he is a deeply divisive figure,” it said.
In the Wall Street Journal’s view the court verdict would weaken Modi’s critics before the 2014 parliamentary poll.
“Thursday’s decision, which comes a few months before national elections likely to be held in May, will weaken critics including the ruling Congress party, which has sought to cast Mr. Modi as an anti-Muslim leader unfit to govern a large and diverse country.”