By Ajay Ghosh
A record five Indian Americans were sworn into office in Washington, D.C., om January 3rd. making it a truly a memorable year for people of Indian origin in the United States. The election of these six is a historic symbol of the rightly recognizable Indian American community’s growing political influence in the mainstream American politics.
Kamala Harris, D-Calif, a former state attorney general who had won the U.S. Senate election on November 8 in a landslide became the first Indian American U.S. senator. Harris, 52, joined by friends and family in the Capitol Building, was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., looking on. “I am humbled and honored to serve you and the people of California. Let’s get to work,” Harris tweeted following her swearing-in ceremony. The new senator, one of seven new senators sworn in, replaces Barbara Boxer, who retired after 24 years in office.
Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., representing the state’s 7th Congressional District; Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., representing the 8th Congressional District; Ro Khanna, D-Calif., representing the 17th Congressional District; and Ami Bera, D-Calif., representing the 7th Congressional District, were the Congressmen of Indian origin who were sworn into office last week.
Krishnamoorthi won in the November election in Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, which includes some Chicago suburbs. The Indian American entrepreneur — president of Sivananthan Labs & Episolar Inc. — served as a policy adviser to President Barack Obama in 1999 when the community organizer ran for Congress. The relationship continued as Obama ran for the U.S. Senate in 2002. Krishnamoorthi was endorsed by the president leading up to the election.
“I will continue to focus on the middle class and our commitment to ensure that hard work is rewarded. I am ready to join and lead the efforts to make sure that working families who play by the rules are not left off the agenda in Washington,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement. “I am humbled by the trust the people of our district have placed in me to fight for them in Congress.”
Jayapal, the first Indian American woman in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first person of color in the state’s Democratic delegation and the first woman to represent the seventh Congressional District, said this position is all about the community, not just her.
“Today is not about me. It’s about we,” said Jayapal in a statement. “It’s about the movement of hundreds of thousands of people in Washington’s 7th Congressional District, a diverse coalition of people from all walks of life, who want to ensure we continue to provide opportunity for all. Jayapal, who takes over for Jim McDermott, is one of only 23 members of Congress born in another country.
Ami Bera has been voted to Congress in California’s 7th Congressional District since 2013. “Today I’m honored to be sworn in to the 115th Congress — grateful to serve and ready for the work ahead,” Bera, the only 3rd term Indian American ever to be in the US Congress, tweeted moments after being sworn in.
Ro Khanna won in California’s 17th Congressional District after a very bitter fight against longtime Rep. Mike Honda. The Indian American lawyer won by more than 20 points in the 2016 election. “Even as the nation continues to heal from the political divisiveness of the past year, I am proud to begin 2017 by representing Silicon Valley in Congress,” Khanna said in a statement. “We need bold ideas and sound policies that provide opportunities to those our changing economy and technological revolution has left behind, and invest in policies that support working families to better prepare all children for the future.
“As a son of immigrants and grandson to a freedom fighter during India’s independence movement,” Khanna added, “the protection of civil rights no matter a person’s gender, race, or sexual orientation, will always be side-by-side with my commitment of economic fairness for all.”