Indian American supporters gear up to play host to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi

Ritu Jha-

Rahul Gandhi may have lost his Member of Parliament (MP) position, but his Indian American supporters have not given up hope. They have planned a series of events for the former President of the Indian National Congress, thanks to Congress winning the Karnataka election, a result that boosted the confidence of not just the party but its overseas supporters as well.

Gandhi’s American sojourn begins May 29 through June 4 from San Francisco Bay Area, and will move to Washington, DC and New York. It will be packed with a series of events where he will be interacting with university students and professors, Indian diaspora, NGOs,
entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, think tanks, and political leaders.

Sam Pitroda, chairman of Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) and long-time Gandhi supporter from the days of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, said he was pleased to see people coming forward to host him and lauded the INC for winning the Karnataka election. “People are beginning to realize false promises (by the BJP) is not the way India can move forward,” he told indica over the phone.

He said, “Basically, the Bharat Jodo Yatra [Unite India March] helped.”

Pitroda said that while the government is working towards boosting startups, “that will not solve India’s problems of food, nutrition and better health systems.”

He said the Bharat Jodo Yatra communicated to the people that he is just like them. “Nobody is perfect, but he walked 4080 km.”

“The current government guys are all about themselves,” he said. “In the long run, India needs to celebrate diversity, live with everybody and not be divided and polarized. We cannot be saying ‘double engine sarkar’. Democracy is not just about elections, democracy is about institutions.”

In California, Gandhi will speak on ‘In Conversation with Rahul Gandhi: Toward Justice and Democratic Futures” UC Santa Cruz’s Silicon Valley campus on the morning of May 30, at an invite-only event hosted by UC Santa Cruz Center for South Asian Studies. In the evening, he will be at a public event called ‘Silicon Valley Mohabbat Ki Dukan with Rahul Gandhi’, at the Marriott, which will see an estimated 1000 people.

“It’s about spreading love and affection in the community,” said Sandeep Vangala, general secretary, Indian Overseas Congress in San Francisco.

On May 31, Gandhi will visit Plug and Play, an accelerator program center in Silicon Valley, where he will talk about AI and human development with startups. Later, he will speak at Santa Cruz University as well as Stanford University.

On May 31 at 5 pm, he will be at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He is scheduled to speak on ‘The New Global Equilibrium’.

On the previous day, Congress supporters plan a rally in San Francisco.

Dinsha Mistree, a research fellow at Hoover Institution, where he manages the Program on Strengthening US-Indian Relations and who will moderate the Stanford event, told indica that he is excited to host Gandhi, and that both the faculty and the students will get an opportunity to engage with him.

Mistree also said that Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra energized India’s people and that they were more drawn to the Congress, not only in Karnataka but all over the country. “The yatra had a great impact on the Congress,” he said.

Vangala said that even two weeks ago there was little momentum, but in the last few days there has been a surge. “Even supporters of other parties are coming forward and want to attend the community events,” he said.

He said the rally is “to give a strong message back home. For the past nine years there has been a false propaganda about the party.”

Pitroda said, “We have a series of events in Washington, including meetings with think-tanks, journalists at the National Press Club, dinner with political heavyweights, and a few private meetings. We will go to Gandhi Center, if we get a chance.”

Gandhi will be at Hudson Institute in Washington DC, and later in New York will meet with a group of academics at Roosevelt House.

Gandhi’s other main public event is with Indian expatriates on June 4 at Javits Center, New York, where he is supposed to speak on “A Secular and Democratic India’.

Pitroda said Gandhi’s primary objective is to interact with the global community. “India is the largest democracy in the world. You are one-fifth of humanity. It’s our moral responsibility to reach out to the global community. Non-resident Indians are becoming an important part of global social, political, and economic scene. They have deep connections with India. It’s important to have a conversation with them, and understand the India-US relationship better.”

Meanwhile, Gandhi has applied of a personal ordinary passport, and the hearing in a Delhi court is scheduled for Friday.

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