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Indian Americans ring the bell with prez ball

world Updated: Jan 20, 2013 13:29 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
US President

Would a Nehru jacket do or something more American — a tuxedo? The young state department bureaucrat will probably go with the jacket he last wore five years ago.

Indian Americans like him are getting ready to launch this weekend President Barack Obama’s re-election celebrations with Indiaspora Ball, the community’s coming-out party.

President Obama may not attend but there are rumours of former president Bill Clinton dropping in. Several senators and House representatives — a lot of non-Indian Americans — are coming as are many Indian Americans. Some congressmen are landing up uninvited.

"This looks like the hottest ticket in town," said Ami Bera, House representative from California and the only Indian American in this congress, and only the third yet.

But irrespective of who attends the ball, this is a “coming out party for the community,” said Shekar Narasimhan, who was a member of Obama campaign’s finance committee. “We wanted to make a statement, and a positive one,” said MR Rangaswami, brain behind Indiaspora.

Presidents show up at a few inaugural balls, but not all. Obama attended eight in 2009 but is scheduled to attend only two this time. The celebrations are not of the same scale either.

But Bera said Obama is aware of the contribution of the Indian American community to his re-election, as also to his first term win. “He has recognised our community by putting a number of Indian Americans within his administration and at high level positions,” he said.

There were 16 Indian Americans in this administration. US Agency for International Development chief Rajiv Shah was the most senior among them.

Aneesh Chopra was Obama’s chief technology officer (he has since left to run for the post of Lt Governor of Virginia state). He was the first person to hold the newly created position.

As was Vivek Kundra, who was Obama’s chief information officer, also the first to hold that position on its creation. He left in 2011 for a private sector job.

There are many more Indian Americans at lower levels and they will all be there at the ball, including the state department official who is planning to wear his Nehru jacket.

But there will be two significant misses at the party — Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal, two most successful Indian American politicians, both Republicans. “We have invited them but neither has responded,” said Rangaswami.

Republican senator John Cornyn is one of the ball’s hosts. The community, however, remains largely Democratic with few exceptions. But given its aspirations, it will host a similar ball for the next Republican president.