It seems that the whole Shah family is furiously backpedaling and denying links to the VHP:
“We are in no way involved with the VHP in India or the Gujarat Government here,” said Anand Shah, who runs Indicorps in Ahmedabad, an NGO Sonal Shah co-founded that provides fellowships to overseas Indian-origin young professionals to do internships in India in social work.
Notice the misleading “in India” which makes the sentence technically true, but ignores the fact that Sonal Shah was the National Coordinator of the VHP in America (the VHPA), and the whole family is deeply connected to right wing Hindu organizations responsible for the murder of thousands of minority citizens in India.
From Indian Express:
Anand Shah, the brother of economist Sonal Shah who has been named by US President-elect Barack Obama as member of his advisory board, said today that his family and their NGO had nothing to do with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the Gujarat government.
As a “coordinator” of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad America (VHPA), Sonal Shah helped raise funds for victims of the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat. Her brother, who said that she couldn’t comment given her present responsibilities, criticised the 2002 riots.
More here. And from the Hindustan Times:
Obama team member has Sangh links
US President-elect Barack Obama may have cultivated a left-of-center image for himself, but Sonal Shah, the Indian-American advisor in his transition team, has well established rightwing leanings.
The 40-year-old economist has been associated with the overseas activities of the Sangh Parivar. She was a national coordinator of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America campaign to raise funds for Gujarat earthquake victims in 2001.
Her father Ramesh Shah, a vice-president of the Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party (OFBJP), had campaigned for LK Advani in Gandhinagar during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. He had also briefly traveled with Advani during his Bharat Udaya Yatra, countrywide election tour.
More here. And this from the Times of India:
Will Obama’s top aide give Modi visa power?
Will economist Sonal Shah, one of US president-elect Barack Obama’s top aides, open the doors of America for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi who has been barred from entering the US by the Bush Administration?
Shah, 40, an economist who co-founded Indicorps, comes from a family believed to be close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and particularly to Modi, having known him since his days as a young pracharak. The Houston-based Shahs developed strong links to the Sangh Parivar around the same time Modi decided to dedicate his life to the Sangh.
Modi used to visit the Shah family, which migrated to the US in 1970, whenever he was in the US before he was sworn in as Gujarat’s CM, a source said. Sonal, inducted as an advisory board member by the US president-elect to assist him in smooth transition of power, could play a vital role in reversing the Bush Administration’s decision not to grant Modi a visa for a visit in effect since March 2005.
It’s vital for Modi that Sonal eventually gets an important profile in the Obama Administration because an insider could influence or change policy decisions of the previous dispensation — notwithstanding Obama’s known views on religious freedom.
There are other examples indicating close ties between the Shahs and Modi.
More here. And this is from the Indian Daily News & Analysis:
Govt hesitant to discuss Shah’s alleged Sangh links
NEW DELHI: No one in the government wants to comment on the startling revelation that President elect Barak Obama’s transition adviser, Sonal Shah is a closely linked to the Sangh Parivar overseas’s chapter. “We have no idea, and we don’t react to press reports, anyway she is a US citizen and her appointment is an internal issue of a foreign country, ” is the standard response from foreign service officials. But privately those close to the Congress and opposed to the BJP are quite rattled.
But most believe that Obama probably has little idea of what these links mean in the Indian context. “ It is extremely silly for the Obama camp not to have done a through background check of people in the transition team,” says former ambassasdor Arundhuti Ghosh, though he unsure about the truths of these reports. Analyst K Subrahmanyam, is unperturbed by the reports of Shah’s VHP links. He was irritated at the tendency to “titillate and exaggerate.” “Let us not jump to hasty conclusions,” he said.