Several hundred people attended the Jan. 3 gala in Washington, D.C., hosted for the five Indian-Americans elected to Congress and two nominees of the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
The “Indiaspora Gala 2017” coincided with the Jan. 3 swearing-in of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, Reps. Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, both Democrats from California, Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois. The two Trump nominees, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, nominated U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Seema Verma, nominated to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, have to face Senate hearings before being confirmed, and were not at the gala. Neither was Sen. Harris.
The event was organized by the non-profit Indiaspora, which was joined by other community organizations including the Hindu American Foundation.
Politicos inside the beltway and beyond, including business and community leaders, and youth, paid anywhere from $0 to $750 on a pay-what-you-can basis, M.R. Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora told News India Times.
The HAF noted that Hindus were now the third largest “faith group” in Congress with the election of Krishnamoorthi, Jayapal, Khanna and re-elected Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who again conducted her swearing-in ceremony on the Bhagavad Gita, as did Krishnamoorthi and Jayapal. Khanna chose the bicentennial edition of the U.S. Constitution.
More than a dozen Congressional leaders from both parties attended and addressed the audience at Indiaspora’s Gala, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California; Senate India Caucus Co-chair Mark Warner; D-Virginia; Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indiana; Bera who is co-chair of the House Caucus for India and Indian-Americans, and the other Indian-Americans elected to the House. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and Ambassador Navtej Singh Sarna, India’s newly appointed envoy to the United States, also attended and made remarks. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, who ran as vice president in former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, also addressed the gathering.
“HAF sees this historic moment as a true coming of age for Hindu Americans politically,” Jay Kansara, HAF director of Government Relations is quoted saying in the press release, expressing confidence that “Hindu values like pluralism, non-harming, moderation, and a quest for truth, will add great value to the policies impacting not only our lives and well-being, but of so many around United States and the world.”
“This was the beginning of a kind of healing process because this election has been so divisive nationally and within the Indian-American community,” Rangaswami said.
A discussion panel cum press conference was held prior to the gala. It included among others, Neera Tanden, a close Clinton aide during the presidential campaign, and president of the think tank Center for American Progress, and Ashley Tellis, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, who discussed the political climate going forward.
Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, spoke about her philanthropic work.