Speculation about Modi just media hype: BJP chief

Washington, July 24 (IANS) Amidst a raging controversy over the issue of a US visa for Narendra Modi, BJP chief Rajnath Singh Wednesday sought to dispel an impression that he had come to the US to get lifted the entry ban on the Gujarat chief minister.

Reports that he had virtually projected Modi as the party's prime ministerial candidate too were a creation of the media, Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh suggested in an interaction with the Indian media here.

"It is for the central parliamentary board of the party to project its prime ministerial candidate at a suitable time," said Rajnath Singh dressed in his trademark dhoti-kurta and Nehru jacket and speaking in Hindi with party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi translating.

But denying that Modi was a polarising figure, he said there was indeed "a consensus within the party over the leadership of the Gujarat chief minister. Had it not been so, I would not have named Modi as the party's election campaign chief".

Changing tack on the visa issue, Rajnath Singh said, "This is a US administration issue, not our issue" though he did think it was a "paradox" that while the Congressional Research Service had praised the leadership of Modi, the administration continued to deny him a visa.

The BJP chief said he had not taken up the visa issue in his interactions with American lawmakers or policy experts at think tanks though some of them questioned the rationale of denying Modi a visa.

Some of the lawmakers that he met had also sought an investigation into a purported letter from 65 members of the Indian parliament asking President Barack Obama to not grant a visa to Modi, he said.Many MPs, including CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, have denied signing the letter, said to be a refax of a letter sent earlier in November 2012, and called it a forgery, Rajnath Singh pointed out.

Meanwhile, commenting on the purported letter in a report from New Delhi the influential Washington Post wrote: "It is almost unthinkable that Indian lawmakers would appeal to the United States to take a stand on an internal matter."

"Most Indian politicians, many of whom still nurse a Cold War-era suspicion of Washington, would bristle at the very thought of it," it said, suggesting "it couldn't have been easy, then" for the parliamentarians to send such a letter to Obama.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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