Have our MPs let down the nation?

Two letters written by 65 Members of Parliament to the United States President Barack Obama urging him to continue the existing stand of his government on denying a US visa to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is clearly an action which is indefensible. The MPs, with due respect to them, have acted beyond their jurisdiction and have also undermined India’s sovereignty. They have in fact tried to take an internal matter of the country to another country and have violated the constitution by looking for solutions outside the ambit of law and rules of the Indian state.

The letters have invited even adverse comments in the American media. The Washington Post has said that it was “unthinkable” that an internal issue of India was being taken to the US. Many of these MPs in the past have condemned the US “invasion” of Iraq and Afghanistan and have often termed the US policies as anti-Islamic. Now in a sudden change of stand, most probably out of political expediency, they want Obama’s intervention in a matter, which is the sole discretion of the US government.

The grant or denial of Visa is the prerogative of any government and no other entity can challenge this discretion. The Indian government also often denies visas to many foreigners and if the US government revoked a US visa to Modi, it is solely their business. And in its wisdom, if the same government decides to review its earlier decision, it is again solely its business. Therefore, an appeal from Indian MPs is out of place and is indeed laughable. Why are we washing our dirty linen in public?

Modi has his admirers and his critics. His opponents want him to be condemned for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. The allegations against him are being pursued in the Indian courts and so far he has not been convicted of any crime. Thus to presume his guilt before the judicial process is over is against the spirit of the rule of law. He should in the meantime be tackled and countered politically. His claims and assertions should be challenged before the people during the polls.

The act of appealing to the US authorities in favour or against the grant of visa to Modi gives out an impression that the Indian law makers were accepting the superior position of the US and its president in issues that are purely internal. This makes no sense. If the MPs want Modi to be penalized, they could appeal to the Indian government to revoke Modi’s passport as this is issued under our rules and regulations. Having said that, there is no case, which is even made out to revoke the passport unless serious criminal charges are proved against him. There is a lot of substance in the BJP’s argument that since Modi represents people of a state in India and is a democratically elected chief minister, it is difficult to believe why his visa should not be restored. But as stated earlier, it is the prerogative of the US government to issue or deny him a visa and the matter ends at that.

The Indian MPs must consider withdrawing their letter and even the BJP president should not make an issue of this during his visit to the US. It is also for the presiding officers of both the Houses in Indian Parliament to examine whether the MPs by writing this letter have committed any kind of breach of privilege. If they have, they should be warned and asked to conduct themselves as per the norms of Indian constitution and the traditions of the largest democracy of this world. Even people who are not overwhelmed or awe struck by Modi and his statements believe that enough is enough and Indian politicians should respect the country’s sovereignty. It should always be India first and individuals or parties later.

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