On the night of Narendra Modi‘s thumping win, Veerappa Moily decided to further expose the intellectual bankruptcy of the Congress. Appearing on a CNN-IBN show hosted by Sagarika Ghose, the former Karnataka chief minister, quoting a newspaper report, said Modi had hired a Washington-based image consulting firm called Apco Worldwide, that had previously burnished the image of assorted dictators around the world.
Moily recounted the story, published exactly 36 days earlier, with great glee. That Apco had a record of boosting the images of corrupt African and Russian leaders who had fallen out of favour with their followers. That Modi’s government was paying $25,000 (approximately Rs 10 lakh) a month for the job. That Apco’s brief was to build and sell Brand Gujarat to the outside world, but any help in making Modi look better wouldn’t go unappreciated.
With which part Moily had a problem is obvious. But a juicy rumour now doing the rounds in Delhi is that India’s best known “image management and communications consulting firm”, run by a former journalist, too was in the running for the Modi account. But the firm backed out when it realised that, among other things, it was also required to polish Modi’s image to such an extent that it would pave the way for a United States visa for Modi.
Now, as everybody and his uncle knows, Modi’s US B1/B2 (tourist/visitor) visa was revoked in 2005 “for alleged violation of religious freedom”. His request for a diplomatic visa too was turned down. Modi said the United States had “insulted” India, and the Manmohan Singh government said the move was “uncalled for”, and that it displayed a “lack of courtesy and sensitivity towards a constitutionally elected chief minister.”
Questions: With Modi re-elected, should the United States revoke the revocation of his visa? Has anything materially changed in Modi’s standing from a legal and diplomatic point of view through his reelection for his visa to be restored? When scores of dubious leaders manage to get into the US, should Modi, with the backing of “five crore Gujarati people”, be blocked? Should Modi be bothered about a US visa at all? Can an image management firm pave the way for a US visa for a politician with a documented record of blood on his hands, when ordinary Indians sweat and toil for it? Will human rights activists succeed in blocking a US visa? Or will Gujarati NRIs succeed?
Photograph: courtesy NDTV