Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 21
As strategists parse the nearly 20 Indian-Americans appointed in the Biden administration, what is noteworthy are those who didn’t make it.
An Obama administration staffer Sonal Shah as well as Amit Jani, who worked on the Biden campaign team have so far been excluded, allegedly due their RSS/BJP links which has been brought into the limelight by over a dozen Indian-American organisations.
Biden’s team has people like senior diplomat Uzra Zeya who had played a role in the Devyani Khobargade case or Samira Fazili who had joined protest rallies in the US against the CAA, NRC and the Kashmir lockdown. Those with RSS/BJP links have not found a place while secular Indian-American organisations have maintained the pressure on the Biden-Harris Transition Team to keep such individuals on the sidelines, said sources.
The Democrats may have been more circumspect over accommodating pro-BJP/RSS elements in the government following renewed activism by organisations opposed to the Hindutva project and also after witnessing the fate of such candidates, added the sources.
Congressional candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni lost the elections after strident opposition from Indian-American organisations and former US Congressperson Tulsi Gabbard also lost political ground because of this reason.
Sonal Shah has served on Biden’s Unity Task Force but her father was the President of Overseas Friends of BJP-USA and is the founder of RSS-run Ekal Vidyalaya for which she has raised friends.
Jani’s may have been the case of lax vetting. Named Biden campaign’s Muslim Outreach Coordinator, he was re-appointed as National Asian American and Pacific Islander Director after it was pointed out that his family has ties with PM Modi and other BJP leaders.
In order to ensure that the Biden administration does not backtrack on excluding those with RSS/BJP links, 19 Indian-American organisations have written to Biden pointing out that many South Asian-Americans individuals with ties to far-right Hindu organisations in India are affiliated with the Democratic Party.