Washington, DC – Hundreds of Americans of Indian heritage were joined by US lawmakers, Obama administration officials, diplomats and journalists to observe a giant leap in history as five of their fellows were elected to Congress.
Democrat Congressman Ami Bera from California was joined by first time elected fellow Democrats Ro Khanna, also from California; Pramila Jaypal from Washington; and Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois. The newly elected Kamala Harris, the Senator from California was conspicuous by her absence. Also absent was Nikki Haley, incumbent governor of South Carolina and Ambassador Designate to the UN in the incoming Trump administration.
Commenting on the event, Indiaspora founder MR Rangaswami told IAT, “The Fab 5 will inspire the next generation of Indian Americans to get involved in the political process – whether it is city, state or federal. You will see many more run in the next election cycle. We now have 5 voices to support all our priorities and it will make a big difference.”
Referring to incoming Trump administration nominations, Rangaswamy added, “In addition we have 2 Indians who should get confirmed in the new administration and we hope they will weigh in on our community’s issues.”
Indiaspora hosted the event at Marriott Marquis, along with PanIIT Alumni Association, an umbrella organization for India Institutes of Technology (IITs) with more than 60,000 alumni spread across the US.
PanIIT USA President, Witty Bindra told IAT, “It was an excellent event where I was able to interact with leading Indian-Americans from all walks of life, and eminent people from India,” adding, “It is always interesting to come across the Indian Diaspora which has many prominent and established IITians. In fact, I was introduced to Ro Khanna’s father who hails from IIT Kanpur.”
On the significance of celebrating the Fab 5 Indian American Congressional Members on January 3, 2017, Indiaspora Board Member Shekar Narasimhan explained to IAT, “The Fab Five were the 1991 University of Michigan men’s basketball team recruiting class that is considered by many to be ‘the greatest class ever recruited’. Jan 3, 1956 was when Dilip Singh Saund was sworn in as the first Indian American Congressman 60 years ago precisely.”
In attendance from the movers and shakers of the US capital Washington, DC were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California; Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat from Virginia and the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last November; Senator Mark Warner, another prominent Democrat from Virginia; and Republican Senator from Arkansas, Dan Sullivan.
Among other members of Congress were Tulsi Gabbard, rising Democrat star from Hawaii along with her proud parents; Republican Todd Rokita from Indiana and Democrats from New York: Joseph Crowley, Hakeem Jeffries, Carolyn Maloney.
The attendees also included Sri Srinivasan, the US Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; Arun Kumar, US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets; Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs; Vinai Thummalapally, Executive Director of SelectUSA at the US Department of Commerce; Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and the newly appointed Indian Ambassador to the United States, Navtej Sarna.
At a curtain-raiser event before the start of the Gala, Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a potential candidate for being nominated as the US ambassador to India; Neera Tanden, firebrand Democrat and the president of the Center for American Progress; Indiaspora board member, techie entrepreneur Sunil Wadhwani interacted with journalists while former Miss America Nina Davuluri also attended.
Indian Americans flew in from as far as the West Coast as Ruchit G Garg, Founder CEO, Harvesting Inc told IAT, “Yes I flew in all the way from San Francisco to Washington DC just to celebrate success of Indian Americans. Was in town for just about 24 hours or so.”
“As a first generation Indian immigrant its exciting to see growing participation of Indians in USA Congress and rising significance beyond just Silicon Valley. I had opportunity to meet and interact with likes of congress woman Tulsi Gabbard, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and even Senator Tim Kaine,” added Garg who was dressed in traditional glittering Indian clothes.