M A I N   N E W S

Invite to Modi divides hosts
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The controversial decision to invite Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to address the annual convention of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) has created a rift within the predominantly Gujarati group.

Mr Mike Patel, the founder and former chairman of the association, said in an interview on Saturday that the AAHOA had rescinded its invitation to Mr Modi after the US government decided to cancel the his visa citing his alleged complicity in the Gujarat riots. Atlanta-based Mr Patel and his brother are the owners of the Diplomat Hotel chain.

"We support the decision of the American government on this issue," Mr Patel reportedly said in the telephone interview.

However, Mr Manhar P. Rama, Chief Operating Officer of JHM Hotels Management, Greenville, South Carolina, and a member of the AAHOA's board of directors, said, "Mr Patel is not the spokesperson of the association" and the AAHOA had not taken back its invitation to Mr Modi. "We have stood firm on our invitation," Mr Rama told The Tribune.

The association's annual meeting will be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from March 24 to March 26.

AAHOA Chairman Nash Patel said in a statement, "The AAHOA is disappointed that its members will not have the opportunity to hear about the significant infrastructure improvements in Gujarat, or about ways they could help promote tourism to that region, but understands the position of the US government."

Meanwhile, reacting to Mr Patel's remarks the Washington-based Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations welcomed AAHOA's decision to rescind the invitation to Mr Modi.

Amid charges, it emerged that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom had expressed its concern over Mr Modi's visit to the State Department.

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