Ro Khanna named Democratic vice chair of Congressional India Caucus

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December 17, 2020 11:07 AM

Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents the Silicon Valley in the US House of Representatives, has been named as the Democratic Vice Chair of the Congressional India Caucus.

Khanna, 44, who was recently elected for a third consecutive term from the congressional district representing Silicon Valley. (Photo source: Reuters)

Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents the Silicon Valley in the US House of Representatives, has been named as the Democratic Vice Chair of the Congressional India Caucus.

The seat has been created for the first time since its formation in 1994. Khanna, 44, who was recently elected for a third consecutive term from the congressional district representing Silicon Valley, is being considered as a potential contender to fill the US Senate seat from California that will fall vacant in January after Kamala Harris is sworn in as the country’s vice president.

“I believe Ro Khanna would be an outstanding Democratic Vice Chair,” Congressman Brad Sherman, Democratic Co-Chair of the Caucus, said in an email to his Congressional colleagues on Wednesday. Born in Philadelphia in 1976, Khanna is the youngest of the four Indian-American lawmakers in the US House of Representatives. The other three being Dr Ami Bera, 55, who is the senior-most member of the so called ‘Samosa Caucus’, Raja Krishnamoorthi, 47, and Pramila Jayapal, 55.

Khanna’s father is a chemical engineer who graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Michigan, and his mother is a former substitute school teacher.

Considered to be “dynamic” by his Congressional colleagues, Khanna is a strong supporter of India-US relationship. He previously served in the Obama administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Commerce from August 2009 to August 2011.

First elected to the US Congress in 2016 by defeating incumbent Mike Honda, he has made a mark for himself within the Democratic Party, but also at the national stage on key issues ranging from foreign policy, national security, environment, commerce and manufacturing jobs.

After serving as its Vice Chair in the 117th Congress (2021-2022), Khanna would likely be the Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for the 118th Congress (2023-24). Congressman Steve Chabot would be the Republican Co-Chair of the India Caucus in the next Congress. He was a frequent traveller to India and has spent many of his summer holidays with the close members of his Indian family, with whom he continues to maintain close contacts.

Khanna visited India every summer through his graduation from high school, said his aunt Aruna Shaiva. Khanna and his cousins would spend hours chatting, playing cricket or watching movies. He relished Jalebi and homemade Saveiyan (popular Indian desserts), she recollected.

”Right from his childhood, Rohit was a very loving and caring intelligent child. Always curious and observant to know about India, its cultural and religious heritage and about our political ideology. He would spend hours with his grandfather listening to him.

”He looked upon him with high esteem and impressed with his honesty, integrity and sacrifices done for the nation. We see the same selfless traits reflected in Rohit as we learn about his efforts to make America a better place for its citizens who have been left behind,” Shaiva told PTI.

”We are very glad and proud of Rohit for carrying the legacy of his grandfather to the USA and building upon his legacy devoting all his life for his country. We see the same zeal in Rohit for America and the people of America, who nurtured him and made him a capable, compassionate good human being,” she said in response to a question.

According to his bua (father’s sisters) Nalini Narayan and Meera Parkhe, Khanna was deeply attached to his grandparents. ”While still quite young, he would avidly listen to his grandfather sharing his experiences of life. As Rohit grew older, they would have lengthy conversations, sharing their views on a wide range of subjects,” they said.

Khanna’s maternal grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar was part of India’s independence movement who worked with freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai and spent years in jail in the pursuit of human rights and freedom, they said.

”Rohit is a dynamic and progressive thinker who will make a positive contribution to public affairs in the US and work with honesty, integrity and sincerity for the welfare of all Americans. We are confident that he will continue to succeed and make a lasting impact on American politics,” they said.

A close relative of Khanna, Eshwara Venkatesam, said: ”My guess is Rohit was always a political creature.” Khanna identifies himself as a progressive capitalist and was a national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign.

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