Organisers of US group that met Modi sought $16,000 a seat

Chicago, March 29 (IANS) Organisers of the US delegation to India that met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had canvassed for participants in the trip at prices ranging from $3,000 to $16,000, said a media report here.

The business delegation includes four US members of the House of Representatives, all Republicans.

The organisers had canvassed in the Indian American community for participants in the trip, according to a report published in Hi India, a South Asian newspaper from Chicago.

The trip was sponsored by a political action committee (PAC), the National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI) founded by Shalabh Kumar, a Chicago businessman. The politicians leading the delegation are Marlin Stutzman, Cyntia Wiederspahn, Cathy Rodgers and Aaron Schock.

An invitation circulated by NIAPPI in preparation for the trip said it was "limited to (an) elite group of American businesspersons".

The group has already met Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad and invited him to visit the US. On the schedule of an extensive trip is a stay at the Lake Palace in Udaipur, a visit to Karnataka as guest of the state government, a visit to the Taj Mahal, the tiger reserve at Ranthambore, a night at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar and a dinner hosted by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. A 'Bollywood Extravaganza' has also been included for the guests.

The cost options given in the invitation were: '7 star trip' (business class travel, private air charter in India) $16,000 per person, '4 star trip' (commercial travel in India with visits to the palace excluded) $10,000 per person, and economy option-with all travel and hotel expenses borne by the individual- $3,000 per person.

There also appears to be a controversy about the political action committees under which Kumar operates, according to the newspaper that is widely read in the South Asian community in the US Midwest.

In 2012, it reported, he ran advertisements attacking Democrat Tammy Duckworth, a respected military veteran who lost both her legs in the Iraq war. Kumar's PAC had supported Republican Joe Walsh, whose campaign attracted a lot of criticism for its negativity, and who eventually lost to Duckworth. Walsh had announced his admiration of Modi and said he would campaign to get him a US visa, if he was elected.

Another PAC founded by Kumar, Indian Americans for Freedom (IAF), has been reprimanded by the Federal Election Commission for failing to properly fill out its statement of organization.

On Oct 5, 2012, as part of its election campaign, the IAF released advertisements in several ethnic publications, supporting Republican Joe Walsh, with the slogan "If you love (Narendra) Modi, send Walsh back to Congress", according to Hi India.

On Aug 17, 2012, the National Indian American Coalition (NIAC), another PAC founded by Kumar, released advertisements in Indian publications on the occasion of India's Independence Day paying tribute to Joe Walsh, calling him the 'maha-mitra Gujarat' and 'maha-mitra India'.

Barely a month after the election in which Walsh lost, Kumar sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission seeking the termination of NIAC.

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