Washington, Dec 23: Prominent in administration, well educated and well-heeled, with their population touching three million, Indian-Americans emerged from the shadows to join politics in large numbers in 2012 with a California physician creating history by winning a Congressional seat.
Ami Bera, 47, pipped a sitting Republican member of the US House of Representatives in a very close contest to become the third member of the community to enter the lower chamber of US Congress after Dalip Singh Saund and current Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.
Both President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party and challenger Mitt Romney’s Republican Party assiduously wooed the community eyeing their half a million votes in the tight presidential race.
Obama as also Romney – whose party boasts of having the only two Indian-American governors – also gave a pride of place to leading lights of the community at their nominating conventions. Jindal, a rising star of the Republican Party, was elected chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association and once again became the subject of speculation as the party’s possible flag bearer in the 2016 presidential election.
Tulsi Gabbard, a 31-year-old American Samoan Democrat from Hawaii became the first Hindu American and one of the first female combat veterans to enter the House and vowed to take the oath of office in January on the Gita, the Hindu sacred book.
Five other Indian Americans, including Shanti Gandhi, a great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, were elected to state assemblies in Kansas, Michigan, Connecticut, Vermont and Colorado.
Snigdha Nandipati, a 14-year-old Indian American girl, spelled ‘guetapens’, the French word for ambush, right to win the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee crown to retain the coveted honour for the community for the fifth year in a row.
Obama, whose administration has more Indian Americans in high places than any other before, named a few more after his re-election, including Sachin Dev Pavithran, who is blind, to an independent US agency devoted to people with disabilities.
In the world of academics, Autar Kaw, an India-born professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida, became one the four recipients of the 2012 US Professor of the Year award.
On the downside, Rajat Kumar Gupta, former director of Goldman Sachs, was convicted on insider trading charges stemming from the Raj Rajaratnam-led Galleon Group case and sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of $5 million. He was allowed to remain free during the hearing of his appeal coming up in January.
Preetinder Singh “Preet” Bharara, nicknamed the Sheriff of Wall Street for convicting the likes of Gupta and Rajaratnam as the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, made it to the cover of Time Magazine.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)