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16 May 2017

White House to Congress: Powerful Indians in Washington DC

The Indian diaspora in the US really seems to be living the American dream. Having gathered numerical and economical clout over time, Indians have started to figure prominently in the power corridors in Washington DC.

While the Congress currently has five Indian representatives including Kamala Harris, Indian Americans also occupy top positions in the Trump administration.

Can Indian Americans be running for Presidency soon?

In context

Indians in DC: A strengthening political power bloc

Political firsts for Indian Americans

Dalip Singh Saund, a Democrat was the first person of Indian origin to get elected to the House of Representatives in 1963. Kamala Harris, former California Attorney General became the first woman of Indian origin to get elected to the Senate in 2016.


The Samosa Caucus

Samosa Caucus is a collective reference to the five Indian representatives who got elected to the 115th US Congress for a two-year term starting 2017. The Caucus includes Pramila Jayapal, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Ro Khanna in the House of Representatives and Harris in the Senate.

Also known as the 'Fabulous Five', they are guided by their Caucus Dean and DC politics veteran Ami Bera.

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Caucus credentials

All of the members are Democrats. While Khanna worked with the Obama administration's commerce department, Jayapal who is a lawyer specializing in immigrant rights was serving as a member of the Washington state legislature. Raja Krishnamoorthy on the other hand is a businessman from Illinois.


What has the Samosa Caucus done?

The Caucus has been lobbying for the interests of the Indian Americans. A letter initiated by Krishnamoorthi urging the administration to address hate crimes, in the background of the shooting of Indian engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, secured 70 legislator's signatures along with the rest of the Caucus.

Jayapal and Harris jointly pushed the Access to Counsel Act, in response to Trump's immigration ban order.


Indian Americans in the Trump Administration

Indians are the largest ethnic group in the Trump administration, mostly composed of male, white staff.

While former Republican South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley has been appointed US Ambassador to the UN, Ajit Pai, Verizon's ex-General Counsel has been appointed the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Seema Verma, a health care executive from Indianapolis was also appointed as Head of medicare and medicaid.


What lies ahead

The Caucus to some extent ensures that the voices of over 3 million Indian-Americans are heard by the top brass in Washington DC and their concerns addressed.

India as a country can further utilize the Caucus to make things more favourable for India with respect to bilateral relations.

Those including Harris, Jayapal, Bera and Tulsi Gabbard have also been seen as potential Presidential contenders.

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