U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 3, in Washington, D.C. Earlier in the day Biden swore in the newly elected and returning members on the Senate floor. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
With a record five Indian Americans elected to the U.S. Congress, the minority community has now set its eyes on doubling the number of its lawmakers possibly followed by a White House occupant, writes Lalit K. Jha. – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #USCongress #TheWhiteHouse #IndianAmerican #AmiBera #RoKhanna #KamalaHarris #PramilaJayapal #RajaKrishnamoorthi #NeeraTanden
The goal, which might look difficult, was set by the three-term Indian American Congressman Ami Bera, who now is the senior-most of the four Indian Americans members in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Today is a historic day,” Bera, 51, told a gathering of eminent Indian Americans gathered from across the country to celebrate the election of a record number of Indian Americans to the U.S. Congress.
Bera, who was elected for the first time to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, said he was joined by three other Indian Americans in the House: Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois, Pramila Jayapal from Washington and Ro Khanna from California.
Kamala Harris was also sworn in as the first Indian American Senator in the Congress.
Four years ago, at a community reception in his honor in Washington DC, Bera had said that he wanted to have five Indian Americans in the Congress, including a Senator.
“This is now a reality,” chipped in Congressman Joe Crowley, a former Co-Chair of the Congressional India Caucus, in his address to the Indiaspora gala.
“What is remarkable that in one generation our community has done so much,” Bera said as he introduced the newly elected Indian Americans in the House to the hundreds of community members.
“Now we need to set a goal of having 10 Congressmen and our own Indian American president,” Bera said, as his sentiment echoed in speeches throughout the night.
“We have come a long way, but we have long ways to go,” said Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist and philanthropist M.R. Rangaswami, the brain behind the gala.
“I am so proud to be elected as the first Indian American women to the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Jayapal.
“What I hope and believe that I would be the first Indian American woman elected to the Congress, but would certainly not be the last one,” she said, urging the younger generation members of the community to join politics.
“We are going to make sure that Indian Americans across the country see our election not only as personal victories for ourselves and our district and our country, but as opportunities and role models for others to be engaged in democracy to run for office themselves,” Jayapal said.
The election of five Indian Americans to the Congress is “really a testament” of the accomplishments of the community, noted Krishnamoorthi.
“For all of those in the audience tonight who are thinking about running for office, there is no better time than now.
You have role models, we have play book. It’s time to get started,” Krishnamoorthi said.
Earlier at a news conference, eminent community member Neera Tanden said Indian Americans running for Congress and winning the elections is really historic.
Ashley Tellis said the best of the community is yet to come as the next generation of Indian Americans have great potential in political field.
The Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Navtej Sarna described the historic election of four Indian Americans in the House and one in the Senate as “mainstreaming” of the community.
“It is a great achievement for the community which is only one percent of this country’s population, but represents seven percent of the doctors and 30 percent of the startups. And now we have five people on the Hill. It is truly the mainstreaming of the Indian American community in U.S. politics,” Sarna said in his brief address.
Several members of the outgoing Obama Administration were also present at the celebrations including the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal and Arun Kumar, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce & Director General of the U.S. Commercial Service.
Sri Srinivasan; Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also attended the gala celebrations.