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updated: 3/26/2013 7:56 PM

Is Schock courting the suburban Indian vote through trip?

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  • Indian American businessman and CEO Shalabh Kumar speaks in his Carol Stream office about the SuperPAC he and other businessmen started to help Congressman Joe Walsh beat Tammy Duckworth.

       Indian American businessman and CEO Shalabh Kumar speaks in his Carol Stream office about the SuperPAC he and other businessmen started to help Congressman Joe Walsh beat Tammy Duckworth.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria at a 2011 Republican Day rally at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

      U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria at a 2011 Republican Day rally at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
    AP File Photo

 
By Kerry Lester
Political Editor
klester@dailyherald.com

A likely Republican gubernatorial candidate is leading a congressional and business delegation trip to India to visit with a controversial government official there, a move that may help him court the support of the state's growing Indian American community.

The 10-day trip -- which includes a trip to the western region of Gujarat to meet with Chief Minister Narendra Modi -- is being funded by the National Indian American Public Policy Institute, a group largely funded by Carol Stream businessman Shalli Kumar. Along with Schock, attendees include Republican Congresswomen Kathy McMorris Rogers, of Washington, and Cynthia Lummis, of Wyoming. The group will also meet with government and business officials in Bangalore and New Delhi. Exactly how much the trip is costing, Kumar declined to say.

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In an interview Tuesday, Kumar described Schock, of Peoria, as a leader in House Republican efforts to grant Modi a diplomatic visa.

Modi has been denied permission to enter the U.S. because he was accused, though not convicted, of allowing the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Gujarat while chief minister in 2002.

Previously, former Congressman Joe Walsh of McHenry, had taken a leading role on the issue, a move that Kumar rewarded with his campaign help. Kumar founded a SuperPAC supporting Walsh's unsuccessful campaign for re-election against Democrat Tammy Duckworth in the 8th Congressional District.

The district, stretching from Addison to Elgin and including portions of Kane, Cook and DuPage counties, was dubbed "perhaps the most Asian district in the Midwest" by Raja Krishnamoorthi, who lost a Democratic primary bid.

According to 2012 census figures, 12 percent of the district's residents are of Asian descent. An estimated 250,000 residents in the suburban area are South Asian.

Kumar said Schock, a new member of the House's powerful Ways and Means Committee, will be the highest-level government official to visit Modi in India since the ethnic cleansing allegations.

Kumar described Modi, the top government official in the financially booming Gujarati region, as "the Ronald Reagan of India."

Kumar, who as a college student in India founded an anti-corruption group, has praised Modi for his work against nepotism in the financially successful region of Gujarat.

Kumar would not say whether he would yet support Schock in a bid for governor, only noting, "he obviously has taken a huge step in terms of garnering the support of the Indian American Community.

In a written statement, Schock communications director Steve Dutton said,

"India ... in recent years has started to open its prior restrictive trade policies, but much more needs to be done. Increasing trade with India is vital to the U.S. economy and can lead to significant new jobs in America producing goods and services for export to this market with more than a billion people."

Schock has not formally announced his intentions for governor, but has signaled at several recent events that he is strongly considering entering the already wide Republican primary field.

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