Flashback 2014: More power to Indian diaspora in US

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Washington, Dec 21: Notching successes in fields as diverse as poetry and politics, some three million- strong Indian American community packed more power and influence far beyond their numbers in the year gone by.

A record 30 Indian Americans jumped into November's electoral battle with Republican Nikki Haley and Democrat Kamala Harris handily winning back their jobs as South Carolina governor and California's attorney general respectively.

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But Republican Neel Tushar Kashkari lost an uphill battle against California's popular governor Jerry Brown, while Rohit 'Ro' Khanna nearly upset seven-term incumbent Mike Honda in a Democrat versus Democrat House contest in Silicon Valley.

Amiresh 'Ami' Bera, the lone Indian American in the US House of Representatives, repeated history by winning a tight California House race two weeks after the elections as he had four years ago.

Eight Indian Americans scored victories in the states with 23-year- old law student Niraj Antani, a Republican, creating history by winning a House seat in Ohio to become one of America's youngest lawmakers.

President Barack Obama, whose administration has more Indian Americans than any other before, added many more, including former key Hillary Clinton aide Richard Rahul Verma as the first envoy from the community to New Delhi.

With Nisha Desai Biswal heading the State Department's South Asia bureau, Indian Americans would be watching US interests in both Washington and New Delhi when Verma takes up his post.

Puneet Talwar took over as assistant secretary for political-military affairs to serve as a bridge between the State and Defence departments, while Arun Madhavan Kumar became assistant secretary of commerce and director general of the US and Foreign Commercial Service.

"Vivek Murthy became the youngest US Surgeon General and the first of Indian descent after cooling his heels for more than a year for Senate confirmation as 'America's doctor' in the face of strong opposition by powerful gun lobby."

Software giant Microsoft named Hyderabad-born Satya Nadella as its new CEO in place of Steve Ballmer, making him perhaps the most powerful Indian-born tech executive in the world.

Indian Americans yet again paid a price for running more than half of America's 150,000 convenience stores with many of them becoming targets when Ferguson exploded after a white policeman killed an unarmed black teenager in August.

Amid growing protests over the treatment of blacks, Obama named Vanita Gupta to lead the US justice department's civil rights division charged with enforcing laws that prevent discrimination.

Kerala-born Stanford University Professor Thomas Kailath received the Medal of Science from Obama for his "transformative contribution to science and technology", while Arun Majumdar, an Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay alumni, was chosen to serve as one of four US Science Envoys.

Chennai-born scientist Subra Suresh was inducted into the Institute of Medicine (IOM), making him the only university president to be elected to all three national academies.

Delhi-born Sujit Choudhry, a noted expert in comparative constitutional law, became the first Indian American dean of the University of California-Berkeley, School of Law, a top US law school.

Indira Talwani and Manish Shah became the first Asian American federal judges in Massachusetts and Obama's home state of Illinois respectively.

Bengaluru-born Indian American poet Vijay Seshadri won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for poetry while the New York Times included the works of Indian historian Ramachandra Guha and five Indian American writers in its list of 100 notable books of 2014.

Two Indian American youngsters made history as Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe were declared co-champions in the Scripps National Spelling Bee contest after 52 years and for just the fourth time in the contest's history.

New York's US attorney Preet Bharara, known in India for his dogged prosecution of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, tasted his first defeat in July after winning 85 insider trading cases.

Among those he sent to jail were Rajat Gupta, the former Indian American director of Goldman Sachs Group, and Mathew Martoma, former portfolio manager SAC Capital Advisors.

But Dinesh D'Souza, maker of a highly critical 2012 documentary on Obama, escaped jail time after pleading guilty to violating the federal campaign finance law.

High-profile hotel magnate Sant Singh Chatwal also awaited sentencing after pleading guilty to federal campaign finance fraud.

Recognising the contributions of Indian Americans from workers who built some of the first railroads in the West to the creator of Hotmail, Smithsonian mounted a first of its kind exhibition called "Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation".

Highlights:

* Record 30 Indian Americans jump into November's electoral battle

* Republican Nikki Haley and Democrat Kamala Harris handily win back their jobs as South Carolina governor and California's attorney general respectively

* Amiresh 'Ami' Bera, the lone Indian American in the US House of Representatives, repeats history with a narrow win

* Eight Indian Americans win in the states

* Niraj Antani, 23, creates history by becoming one of America's youngest lawmakers in Ohio.

* Former key Hillary Clinton aide Richard Rahul Verma is confirmed as the first Indian American envoy to New Delhi

* Vivek Murthy became the youngest surgeon general and the first of Indian descent, but after waiting for more than a year for Senate confirmation.

* Software giant Microsoft names Hyderabad-born Satya Nadella as its new CEO

* Kerala-born Stanford University's Professor Thomas Kailath receives the Medal of Science from Obama

* Delhi-born Sujit Choudhry becomes the first Indian American dean of Berkeley School of Law

* Indira Talwani and Manish Shah became the first Asian American federal judges in Massachusetts and Illinois respectively

* Bangalore born Indian American poet Vijay Seshadri wins the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for poetry

* Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe make history as they are declared co-champions in the Scripps National Spelling Bee contest after 52 years.

IANS

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