After spending the past nine years battling the views of the Congress, the Left and others on Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Bharatiya Janata Party has latched on to a report of the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) to showcase the “achievements” of someone it regards as its “model Chief Minister.”

BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy on Wednesday cited the 90-page CRS report “to prove” that Mr. Modi was the best Chief Minister in the country, having “streamlined the economy, removed red tape, ended corruption and built up infrastructure.” Further, referring to the refusal of a U.S. visa to Mr. Modi in 2005, Mr. Rudy suggested that America's official opinion about him had come a long way since then.

In fact, CRS reports do not reflect the opinion of the U.S. Congress or administration and are, at best, background briefs for Congressmen with much of their source material derived from the region itself — newspaper reports, speeches at seminars and so on.

As the BJP tried to project the “weightiness” of the report — Mr. Rudy said the equivalent of Rs. 400 crore was spent by the U.S. Treasury on the CRS each year — CPI leader D. Raja had this to say: “The BJP should be ashamed that it is looking for a good character certificate from the U.S. for Mr. Modi and even encouraging the U.S. to meddle in India's internal affairs.” Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) wondered why the BJP was flaunting an American character certificate for Mr. Modi for, the very same Americans had refused him a visa earlier. “Both the BJP and the U.S. should know that it is the people of India who will decide the country's Prime Minister, certainly not a U.S. agency or research organisation.”

Interestingly, the CRS report itself indicates that it has merely summarised “views” expressed in one newspaper or another. The CRS said: “Yet, from among the party's [BJP's] likely candidates for the prime ministership in future elections is Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has overseen impressive development in the State, but who is also dogged by controversy over his alleged complicity in lethal anti-Muslim rioting in 2002.” Now this view has been gleaned from a report in the Outlook magazine, dated April 5, 2011, which said “despite his clear political and economic successes in Gujarat … his aspirations to be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate face significant obstacles, not least that Muslims and liberal minded Hindus would represent an anti-Modi bloc at the national level …”

Yet another reference to Mr. Modi in the CRS is: “Perhaps India's best example of effective governance is found in Gujarat (pop. 60 million), where controversial Chief Minister Narendra Modi has streamlined economic processes, removing red tape and curtailing corruption …” This, the CRS acknowledges, is based on a write-up in The Wall Street Journal of January 14, 2011.

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