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Criticized trip to India minus Stutzman: Office

Stutzman

U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman has been under media scrutiny for a trip to India that his office says he did not take.

Hi India, a weekly newspaper in Chicago, reported that Stutzman, R-3rd, was among four members of the House who went to India last week to meet with Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state and a prospective candidate for prime minister of the South Asian nation in 2014.

The newspaper said the congressional delegation invited Modi to visit America. The U.S. State Department has banned Modi from the U.S. since 2005 because he allegedly failed to stop riots in 2002 in which 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.

James Wegmann, Stutzman’s communications director, said Stutzman did not travel to India.

“Congressman Stutzman was invited to participate, but he declined,” Wegmann said. “He decided to spend time with his family.”

Congress is in the second week of a two-week recess.

Various media – including the Washington Post, the New York Times and Reuters – have reported that the delegation visiting India includes Republican Reps. Aaron Schock of Illinois, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.

The Times of India reported Saturday that the organizer of the 10-day trip, Chicago businessman Shalabh Kumar, had announced at a news conference that Stutzman would be part of the contingent. Other media also named Stutzman as being among the travelers.

Modi’s website displays several photos of him with Schock, Lummis and Rodgers, but there is no sign or mention of Stutzman.

Stutzman went with Schock and Lummis to Saudi Arabia in 2011 as part of a cultural exchange program.

Reuters reported that Schock told a news conference in New Delhi on Friday that American business leaders had urged him to visit Gujarat “because unlike other places in India our foreign investment is welcome.”

Schock said the trip was approved by Congress, according to reports. The excursion reportedly is being financed by the Kumar-led National Indian American Public Policy Institute.

The delegation, said to include more than a dozen Indian-Americans, was scheduled to stay at palaces in India and visit the Taj Mahal and a tiger reserve, Hi India reported.

In an opinion piece carried by various Indian and American media, Chicago-based journalist Mayank Chhaya wrote Sunday that the traveling congressmen – he erroneously included Stutzman in the delegation – “have stepped right on” political excrement by visiting Modi.

“The smell on their shoes may not last long but while it does, it would be fairly foul,” he wrote.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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