|Date: 18 Mar 2005|
Source: Times of India
AHMEDABAD: The opposition Congress in Gujarat on Friday dismissed Chief Minister Narendra Modi's criticism of the denial of a US visa to him and said it was certainly not an insult to India but was "an individual matter".
The US revoked Modi's tourist visa and denied him a diplomatic visa, citing suppression of religious freedom in his state. Modi termed the US move as an insult not only to the 50 million people of Gujarat but also to India.
But Arjun Modhvadia, Congress member and opposition leader in the state assembly, told reporters: "We do not see it as an insult of people. It is an individual matter. It is Modi's old habit to label his insult as Gujarat's insult."
"While I personally believe that a chief minister must be issued visa, Modi was denied permission to visit the US because of his government's partial handling of the communal violence in the state in 2002," he said.
Modhvadia clarified that the Congress-led government at the centre had taken no objection to Modi's US visit. "Even Modi has acknowledged as much," he said.
"There were protests in the US against Modi's proposed visit. Though he was going to attend a function of the Asian American Hotels Owners' Association (AAHOA), a section of the association was opposed to his visit," he said.
"It should be pointed out that Modi took pride so far in equating his policies with those of (US President) George W Bush. What does he have to say about that now?" Modhvadia asked.
Speaking in New Delhi, senior Congress leader and union Textile Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who hails from Gujarat, supported the US decision.
"I welcome the decision. Such violent people (as Modi) must not be given visa, even if they happen to be holding constitutional posts," he said.
"The people of Gujarat too are repenting their decision to re-elect him," he added.