New Delhi: The controversy over Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's US visa has got more twists and turns. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury has been denied signing the letter sent to US President Barack Obama against a visa to Modi while MPs say he must have forgotten that he signed it.
Yechury, whose name figures at number 9 on the letter written in late 2012, on Tuesday had refuted claims that he was one of the MPs who has reached out to Obama to halt Modi's visit. He had said, "I would be the last person to write to the US Administration and to do something like this. We don't want anyone to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. Secondly, it is up to the US government to decide on giving visa."
Mohammed Adeeb, Independent MP from Rajya Sabha, had expressed surprise on Yechury's retraction and said that Yechury had signed the letter. He said, "Yechury must have forgotten about it as the letter is six-months-old or he must be thinking that I have written some new letter and forgigng his signature. This is a letter which he signed in November 2012. His name is there."
Adeeb took the initiative for this campaign and had said that they sent letters to Obama again because of the current campaign and initiative being taken by BJP President Rajnath Singh for getting a US visa for Modi. Rajnath, who is on a visit to Washington, will meet US lawmakers, think tanks and the US government officials during which he said he will urge the Americans to lift the ban on visa for Modi.
The letter signed by 65 MPs asking Obama to withhold Modi's visa is being re-circulated by the American council of Muslims.
Meanwhile, the BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said it seems to be a 'jugal bandi' of Congress abroad. "It's an issue of privilege motion also against the MPs as they are speaking against democratically-elected Chief Minister. There should be a case of fabrication and forgery against these people as Sitaram Yechury denied signing letter," she added.
The Congress, too, has washed its hands off the Modi visa controversy saying it does not make a difference to them whether or not Modi is granted a US Visa. Party General Secretary Digvijaya Singh said, "We have nothing to do with it. It is up to the US government to issue visa to Modi."
Modi has been denied visa by the US for several years over allegations of human rights violations during the 2002 riots in Gujarat. A total of 65 MPs wrote letter to Obama in late 2012 against granting Modi a US visa. While one letter was signed by 25 Rajya Sabha MPs, the other was signed by 40 Lok Sabha members. The letters were written on November 26 and December 5, 2102 respectively and re-faxed to the White House on Sunday.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had welcomed the move by the MPs. "This letter is a good step. America refused Modi a visa once before because of the 2002 riots. In the same way Rajnath is bowing to America to get Modi a visa, upright MPs must come forward to oppose this request and put pressure on the US to keep men like this from entering the US," NCP leader Tariq Anwar had said. Along with Yechury, CPI MP Achuthan and also a Rajya Sabha member, had siged the letter.
The letter to Obama had said, "Given that legal cases against the culprits including many senior officials in Mr. Modi's administration are still pending in the court of law, any revoking of the ban at this juncture would be seen as a dismissal of the issues concerning Mr. Modi's role in the horrific massacres of 2002.
"It would legitimise Mr. Modi's human rights violations and seriously impact the nature of US-India relations by sending a message that the United States values economic interests over and above the universal values of human rights and justice," the letter had said.
The signatories include Sabir Ali and Ali Anwar Ansari (Janata Dal-U), Rasheed Masood (Congress), S Ahmed (Trinamool Congress) Asaduddin Owaisi (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen), Thirumavalavan (Viduthalai Chiruttaigal Katchi), KP Ramalingam (DMK) and SS Rasmasubbu (Congress).
The MPs had alleged that Modi had not only "obstructed" the course of justice but also "failed" to provide rehabilitation to the survivors of whom 16,000 continue to live in refugee colonies lacking basic amenities.
The letter to Obama about Modi's US visa, "is a stark reminder that Modi and the divisive ideology he represents continues to be anathema to a cross section of Indians," said Raja Swamy of the Coalition Against Genocide.
"After long having denied any desire on the part of Mr. Modi to acquire a US visa, Mr. Rajnath Singh's visit to the US, to lobby lawmakers here for Modi's visa reeks of hypocrisy," he had added.
Ahsan Khan of the IAMC, a constituent of the CAG coalition, had said it was noteworthy that Modi evoked such strongly negative reactions from elected representatives in India as well as the US across the ideological spectrum.
The revelations about the letters comes at a time when Rajnath Singh is in Washington to meet US lawmakers and officials, and to urge the government to lift the ban on visa for Modi. Singh had told a press conference in New York on Sunday that he would appeal to the US lawmakers to impress on the Administration to remove the visa ban on Modi imposed after the 2002 post-Godhra riots.