Controversial activist Shalabh ‘Shallli’ Kumar is pulling some strings.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: The newest addition to the race for California’s 17th Congressional District, Vanila Mathur Singh, was apparently recruited to run for Congress by a man named Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, an Indian American political activist at the head of two influential cultural-political bodies that are looking to get, among other things, a visa for Narendra Modi.
Kumar, who is the founder of Indian Americans for Freedom (IAF) and a chairman on the Indian American Advisory Council (IAAC) of the House Republican Conference, convinced Singh to run as Republican so that she could challenge fellow Indian American Ro Khanna for the Congressional seat, says a report in the San Francisco Chronicle. Khanna has been in the race for months, challenging incumbent Democrat Mike Honda, and was reportedly offered an endorsement from the IAF if he supported Kumar’s agenda, which he did not.
Kumar then convinced Singh to oppose Khanna as a Republican. According to the report, Kumar and his super-PAC (Political Action Committee), the IAF, have the single main goal of getting Modi a visa. Modi has famously been denied a US visa on multiple occasions since 2005, a situation which has become increasingly awkward for Indian Americans and the US Congress since Modi may very well become the next Prime Minister of India later this year.
The IAF was founded in the early 1980s, during the Ronald Reagan administration. According to its website, “Jack Kemp and Donald Totten of Illinois, a group of Indian American volunteers in Chicago, joined together to form a group dedicated to support all who championed causes dear to the Indian community in the US. Mr. Totten, who was Reagan’s Midwest Campaign Manager at that time, went on the record to say that the Indian American community had a significant role to play in the ascendency of Ronald Reagan to Presidency of the United States.”
The organization lists its mission as “to build [a] strong relationship between Indian Americans, all those community leaders and decision makers in the country who believe in the self-reliance, fiscal discipline and pro-growth agenda, to influence national policy in support of causes important to Indian Americans, while advocating [the] same ideas and policies with[in] the Indian American Community.”
Khanna, Honda, and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) – who is the only desi in the House currently – all support the Department of State’s decisions to deny Modi’s visa, but Singh supports it. Singh has also been involved with the Hindu American Foundation, which has come to Modi’s defense every time a Congressional leader has come down against him. Kumar is also endorsing Manju Goel, who is running for the Republican ticket in the 8th District of Illinois, who presumably supports his program.
The American Indian Muslim Council has also criticized Singh for supporting a visa who has been alleged time and again for genocidal activities against religious minorities, as well as for her spotty voting record here in the US — Singh only registered to vote in 2002, at the age of 31, despite having been in the US since she was a toddler, and has only voted in five elections over the last twelve year.
Kumar is based in Chicago, and is considered a top donor and activist in the Republican Party. He met Modi in 2011, and became a rabid supporter shortly afterward. He is originally from Amritsar, Punjab, and came to the US for his education. He studied at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and is currently the chairman and CEO of AVG Advanced Technologies.
Below is an interview with Kumar, conducted by fellow Republican political advocate Cathy McMorris Rodgers:
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