India Caucus Membership Drive – Consul General Pradhan Kicks off Initiative


Our Bureau

New York, NY

Nearly 60 prominent members of the Indian community from New York and New Jersey, including business leaders, community activists, and heads of several organizations assembled to kick off an initiative to increase the membership of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. 

The event hosted by Ratna and Varinder Bhalla was inspired by the Consul General of India, Ambassador Binaya Pradhan who noted the declining membership of the Caucus over the years and asked Mr. Bhalla, Chairman of the Indian American Voters Forum to launch a membership drive for the India Caucus. Bhalla discussed the plan with Congressman Tom Suozzi who enthusiastically endorsed the initiative. 

India Caucus is a bipartisan coalition of American lawmakers aimed at advocating the interests of the Indian American community and strengthening relations between India and the United States. 

India Caucus was founded in 1993, initially with nearly 100 congressmen; over the years, its membership went up and down, peaking at 200 and currently only 109.  Some congressmen of the Caucus resigned from Congress, others lost an election and one Caucus member, NJ Congressman Donald Payne died last month. 

The Indian American Voters Forum, the brainchild of Varinder Bhalla, was founded in 2008 to enhance the participation of the Indian community in the political mainstream. Earlier, Bhalla had led a nationwide voter registration drive, for which he interviewed former US President Gerald Ford and several congressional leaders. 

In 2009, the Forum conceived a novel approach to attract congressional leaders into the India Caucus, by celebrating the Independence Day of India, and televising it across the United States. Riti Bhalla Special, the television show, named after the young host, attracted 22 congressional leaders who were motivated by the opportunity to create goodwill with their Indian American constituents across the U.S. Several governors who led trade delegations to India also appeared as guests in the program.

Bhalla strategically decided to invite only those congressional leaders who were either part of India Caucus or were willing to join and bring in other congressmen with them. 

In 2010, Senator Gillibrand announced on Riti Bhalla Special that she was joining the Senate India Caucus, founded in 2004 by Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John Cornyn. Pursued by the Forum, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice joined the India Caucus in 2017.

Also in 2017, the Forum interviewed two opponents for election to the US House of Representatives and got their commitment that winner of the election would join the India Caucus. 

Congressman Joe Crowley, Co-Chair of the Caucus, appeared on the Riti Bhalla Special thrice and inducted several congressmen into the India Caucus.

With inspiration from Ambassador Pradhan, earlier this month, a committee was formed with a dedicated mission to increase membership of the India Caucus. 

With Bhalla as Chairman, the committee includes community stalwarts Padmashri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Padmashri Dr. Dattatreyudu Nori, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Dr. Sunil Mehra, Rajeev Bhambri, Ratna Bhalla, Gobind Munjal, Gunjan Rastogi, Sudhir Vaishnav, and Dev Vishwanath. 

Launch of the committee had its first success when Congressman Tom Suozzi committed to join the India Caucus and use his influence to bring in other congressional leaders into the Caucus.

Judge Anthony Paradiso welcomed the Ambassador on behalf of the judiciary of New York. Dr. Sudha Parikh welcomed the ambassador with flowers. Ambassador Pradhan called Suozzi, “Friend of India” and, for the Caucus induction ceremony, welcomed him with a garland while NAVIKA Chairman Haridas Kotahwala and CEO Naveen Shah presented an Aum Scarf to the Congressman.

In his closing remarks, Ambassador Pradhan enumerated numerous advantages for both India and the United States that occurred after the formation of the India Caucus, including 50 times increase in bilateral trade and the largest number of Indian students coming to America for higher studies.

Among others, the event was attended by State Bank of India CEO Prasanta Tripathy, Cheapo Air CEO Sam Jain, Sunil Tristar of India TV, renowned journalist George Joseph, AIA National President Gobind Munjal, Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation President Hussain Baqueri, American Punjabi Society President Gary Sikka, Guru Nanak Gurudwara Founder Paramjit Singh Bedi, JUS Punjabi CEO Penny Sandhu Ji, Diwali at Time Square Founder Neeta Bhasin, former IALI President Satnam Parhar and Jackson Heights Merchant Association Secretary, Mohinder Verma.

In a jaw-dropping surprise of the evening, Congressman Suozzi entertained the guests with a famous Frank Sinatra song. 

Committee member, Padmashri Nori’s biography, From Mantada to Manhattan, signifying his rise from a small village in India to becoming the Chief of Oncology at the world-renowned Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, which released earlier by the Chief Justice of India and presented at the White House last month, was presented to the dignitaries.

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