Friday, February 7, 2014

Pro-Modi Indian-American Enters Silicon Valley Congressional Race

US Congressional election in Silicon Valley this year was being seen as a two-person race between incumbent Congressman Mike Honda (Democrat) and his main challenger Rohit "Ro" Khanna (Democrat) until recently.

Vanilla Singh:

It all changed when Dr. Vanilla Mathur Singh (Republican), a member of Hindu American Foundation (HAF), entered the race in December 2013. The HAF first made headlines in 2005 with its failed attempt in California state to "improve 6th grade textbooks so that these books actually reflect their (Hindu) beliefs and their religious practices."

Vanilla Singh and Mike Honda

Media reports indicate that Singh was recruited to run by Shalabh "Shalli" Kumar, a Chicago-based Indian-American businessman and Republican fundraiser. Kumar is the founder of a super PAC, Indian Americans for Freedom, with close ties to Hindu Nationalists. He has been lobbying members of US Congress to help rehabilitate his "idol" Narendra Modi of India's Hindu Nationalist Bharatya Janata Party (BJP). Modi has been denied US visa multiple times by the State Department because of his widely suspected role in the killing of thousands of Muslims in 2002 Gujarat riots.

Singh told San Francisco Chronicle that she raised $100,000 in the five days after declaring her candidacy, including $25,000 of her own money. The rest, she said, came from about "20 family and friends." Kumar's super PAC could change the dynamics of the South Bay race if he chooses to back Singh financially. In 2002, his super PAC spent $500,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., including producing an ad set to Middle Eastern music that showed the double amputee Iraq war veteran wearing a headscarf during a visit to a local Muslim community center.

Rohit "Ro" Khanna:

Ro Khanna
Ro Khanna, a Silicon Valley patent attorney of Indian origin, is backed by many of Silicon Valley’s top VCs and executives at Google, Facebook, Yahoo and other tech companies.   Other Notables include Marc Andreessen, the Netscape co-founder; John Doerr, the venture capitalist; and Randi Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Zuckerberg Media and the sister of Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker, former President pf Facebook.  Four months before the primary, Khanna has $1,975,000 in cash on hand, or more than triple the incumbent’s $623,000, according to campaign finance records filed last Friday as reported by the New York Times. Khanna supporters expect him to win to push legislation in Congress to liberalize US visas for foreign workers needed to fill Silicon Valley tech jobs.

He supports raising the number of H1-B visas, keeping a lid on capital gains taxes and cracking down on patent trolls while charting a progressive agenda on most social issues. Faced with the surprise new challenge from the Hindu Right, Ro Khanna has refused to denounce Narendra Modi for fear of alienating a significant chunk of the substantial pro-BJP Indian-American voters in Silicon Valley.

Mike Honda:

Mike Honda, the incumbent congressman from 17th district, is a Japanese-American who was put by the United States in an internment camp as a child during World War II. He has been a featured speaker at many Muslim-American events where he has spoken out for American Muslims' civil rights since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

During a 2009 keynote speech at Human Development Foundation fund-raiser that I attended, Congressman Honda said the US foreign policy should have the same goals that the HDF has in Pakistan. Drawing from his experience as a US peace corps volunteer to support education and infrastructure development in Central America in the 1960s, he proposed a similar effort in restoring US credibility in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Honda praised the US emphasis on economic aid and said he supports the 80/20 rule that General Petraeus had outlined, with 80% emphasis on the political/economic effort backed by 20% military component to fight the Taliban insurgency.

Honda says he has been a strong advocate for the tech industry in Congress. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, he helped get millions of dollars in funding for BART extension to San Jose, a top priority for Valley leaders, as well as federal investment in nanotechnology research. His strong backing from organized labor and veteran Democrats reflects the decades he's spent in public service. Honda also supports an increase in H1-B visas, although he's also expressed concerns about its potential harm to the local labor pool.


A number of polls in 17th district so far show that Honda enjoys a healthy lead over his challenger Khanna. Honda's lead could increase if Singh takes a significant chunk of Indian-American votes away from Khanna.


In spite of a powerful tech industry funded challenge by Ro Khanna, Honda remains a favorite to win. Honda also enjoys the strong endorsement of President Obama and Democratic Party's establishment. Singh's entry in the race could further help Honda extend his lead and keep his seat in Congress. I intend to vote for Mike Honda based on the Congressman's strong record of service to Silicon Valley and his unambiguous pro-civil rights stance.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Sonal Shah in the White House

Gujarat Muslims Ignored By Indian Politicians

Indian-American Lobby Emulates AIPAC

Pakistani-American Demographics

Minorities are Majority in Silicon Valley


Anonymous said...

Indians a rising force in California politics

Ex said...

I love the names vanilla, mike and ro

Zaheer said...

Thank you, Riaz.
No surprise here. A noteworthy element is Khanna's refusal to negativley comment on Modi. The Pakistani community, surprising as it may seem, is too fragmented, and too likely to oppose, if not to actually attack any (potential, if not actua) public-office candidate, even if one materializes, on the grounds of his/her religiousness. I know of no non-professional organization organization that does NOT have the word Islam in it. We are doomed to a fourth-world status if we continue to have a medieval ouitlook on life, and do not pull ourselves out of an nonn-inclusive "islamic" bent of mind.

Riaz Haq said...

What if Modi becomes prime minister?

Myth 1: Modi is a development man

This cannot be further from the truth. Gujarat has always been a developed state from the time it was carved out of Bombay state in 1960. Economic indicators clearly show that Gujarat under Modi has been ‘worse off’ than under previous governments (even the BJP one before him).

The fact is that foreign direct investment in Gujarat has taken a severe beating in the last few years and even local investment is far below what is being flaunted. Regarding social indicators, Gujarat fares poorly.

A UNICEF report published in 2013 says social development in the state has not kept pace with economic development; almost every second child in Gujarat under five years old is undernourished, while three quarters are anemic.

Myth 2: The Gujarat carnage is a thing of the past and Modi has been given a “clean chit”

Many believe the courts exonerated Modi of involvement in the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots in 2002. The hard facts are, however, very different. First of all, no court has given Modi a clean chit.

True, there is a Special Investigation Team (SIT) report that says there is not enough evidence against Modi.

But this has been challenged, with the petitioner Zakhia Jafri being given leave by Ahmadabad magistrates to question the merits of the SIT report in a higher court.

Raju Ramchandran, appointed by the Supreme Court as amicus curiae for many of the Gujarat riot cases, asserts that there is enough evidence to prosecute Modi on several counts with regard to the violence in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people died.

Modi has neither shown any remorse nor taken responsibility for the killing of innocent people under his watch. The least a chief minister could have been expected to do was to enforce law and order and protect the life and property of every citizen in his state. That he ignored this responsibility, there is no doubt among many. That he has denigrated minorities has been documented by the print and the electronic media.

Myth 3: Modi has “made up” with the minorities

There are some claiming to be representatives of minority Christian and Muslim communities who sing Modi’s praises.

A careful analysis indicates these people have vested interests, especially in business, and are not really interested in their community or what is happening to minorities in the country.

In 2003 Modi introduced an anti-conversion law and established rules to govern the implementation of this law in 2008.

It is perhaps one of the most draconian laws in the history of democratic India. It forbids a citizen from converting to another faith unless she/he has permission from civil authorities.

Even now, police and intelligence officers constantly visit Christian institutions and Christians in general, making all kinds of inquiries and demanding to check baptism registers and other records.

Myth 4: Modi is not corrupt

In May 2012, anti-corruption campaigners Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal visited Gujarat. They came away declaring it the most corrupt state in the country. Why they have not continued to highlight corruption in Gujarat is anyone’s guess.

Several years ago, the Tata Motor Company was allowed to establish a plant to build the “world's cheapest car” in Gujarat with surprising ease, flouting every rule in the book and even the state's industrial policy.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The Hindu Saffron Brigade demands for itself abroad what it denies to the minorities at home.

Riaz Haq said...

@narendramodi #India textbooks: "#Japan nuked #USA", "Cutting trees raised CO3", "Gandhiji killed on Oct 30 1948"

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Hindustan Times story on fake Indian polls:

A sting operation by news and current affairs channel News Express claims to have exposed malpractices of 11 opinion poll agencies.

The channel claimed these pollsters were willing to manipulate data and provide “misleading results”.

Following the exposé, the India Today group suspended the services of an agency implicated in the operation.

The sting, titled Operation Prime Minister, does not offer any evidence to show that any media-commissioned survey in the past year has been deliberately manipulated. The aim, according to the channel, is to “expose mindset and intent”.

Transcripts provided by the channel reveal that when approached as lobbyists on behalf of political parties, heads of such agencies were willing to provide two sets of data — original and manipulated — for different rates.

Also on offer were increasing the margin of error to show a spike in seats; showing contradictory results projecting rival parties as leading the electoral race by creating separate companies; deleting negative data; and manipulating data to any extent at the behest of the client.

At a press meet on Tuesday, News Express editor-in-chief Vinod Kapri said the sting was motivated by the Election Commission’s letter to parties inviting their views on opinion polls and the mushrooming of such polls.

In one instance, pollster Yashwant Deshmukh of CVoter, told the channel’s undercover reporter that while 3% was the standard margin of error, “at best, we can put it to 5%”.

Responding on Twitter, Deshmukh said, “I hope dear old friend Vinod Kapdi (sic) also shows me denying all his efforts and saying clearly that CVoter and Yashwant can’t do such things.”

Following the sting, India Today said they were suspending the services of CVoter.

Representatives of Quality Research and Services allegedly told undercover reporters they first did a survey projecting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as winning 200 seats in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and then created a fictitious company to project the Samajwadi Party (SP) getting as many seats.

Asked if News Express had any evidence to suggest that a media-commissioned survey had been manipulated, Ravikant Mittal, the channel’s managing editor, told HT, “No, we have no proof to show that. Our intention was only to show data can be manipulated in return for money.”

Mittal, however, added these agencies had said they could get the surveys broadcast on channels.

Following the sting, Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the “truth and fraud” of opinion polls had been exposed and it was “shocking”.

Anonymous said...

The Pew Research Center poll said the Indian public, by a margin of more than three-to-one, would prefer BJP to lead the next government over Congress.

It said 63 percent of Indians prefer the BJP to lead the next government, 19 percent prefer Congress and 12 percent support other parties. BJP backing is consistent across age groups, the research found.

Pew, a Washington-based think tank, interviewed 2,464 randomly selected adults in states and territories that are home to roughly 91 percent of the Indian population. The poll, conducted between Dec. 7 and Jan. 12, has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

Modi, the chief minister of western Gujarat state for the past 11 years, is credited with turning his state into an industrial haven. But critics question whether the Hindu nationalist chief can be a truly secular leader over India’s many cultures.

Rahul Gandhi, heir to the country’s Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, is leading the Congress party’s struggling campaign.

Congress has said it will not formally declare Gandhi as its candidate for prime minister — a bit of political maneuvering aimed at protecting the 43-year-old from being a scapegoat for his party’s problems.

The Congress party has been battered by corruption scandals, internal feuding and an inability to deal with a stumbling economy and deep-rooted problems with poverty, infrastructure and education.

Modi also is facing his share of controversy. He has been accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in the state in 2002 which left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly Muslims.

Riaz Haq said...

India's two main political parties both broke laws barring foreign donations by taking cash, Delhi High Court rules …

Riaz Haq said...

Modi is where he is today – on the cusp of power — not because the country is becoming more communal but because the Indian corporate sector is becoming more impatient. Every opinion poll that shows him inching towards power sets off a bull run on the Bombay Stock Exchange. In a recent dispatch for the Financial Times, James Crabtree noted the exceptional gains notched up by Adani Enterprises – the company’s share price has shot up by more than 45 per cent over the past month compared to the 7 per cent rise registered by the Sensex. One reason, an equities analyst told the FT, is that investors expect a government headed by Modi to allow Adani to expand his crucial Mundra port despite the environmental complications involved. “So the market is saying that, beyond the simple proximity of Mr Adani and Mr Modi, these clearances may no longer be so hard to get under a BJP regime,” the analyst is quoted as saying.

Riaz Haq said...

The U.S. Congress doesn't usually weigh in on domestic politics in other countries, but a resolution recently introduced in Congress by Rep. Keith Ellison is designed to put pressure on Narendra Modi, the front-runner to be India's next prime minister.
The resolution suggests that the State Department should continue to deny him a U.S. visa. Many hold Modi responsible for one of the worst episodes of religious violence in India's recent history — riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002, which left more than a thousand Muslims dead.

Riaz Haq said...

Pando Daily on new revelations in Silicon Valley Congressional race:

When I first began covering the Congressional race between Mike Honda and Ro Khanna, the drama was fairly straightforward: A popular old school Democratic incumbent being challenged from within his own party by a young upstart with the backing of the richest and most powerful plutocrats in Silicon Valley.

The two candidates were battling for some of the most fertile soil in Silicon Valley: A congressional district that’s home to tech megacorps like Apple, eBay, Intel, Yahoo, and AMD. And the press was heralding it as a clash of political cultures: the first time that Silicon Valley was fronting its own candidate to take on the Bay Area’s powerful liberal Democratic Party machine.

Ro promised his mega-wealthy donors that he’d use Silicon Valley culture to disrupt national politics and make the world a better place — it would be Washington D.C. 2.0.

But as the June 3 primary approached, and the fight for the heart of Silicon Valley devolved into a messy five-way free-for-all, it became clear that Khanna couldn’t so easily disentangle himself from real world politics.

His vision of a technocratic political utopia met reality, and reality won. He got bogged down by uninspiring politics and accusations of a dirty tricks campaign to manipulate the vote in his favor.

It got sucked into something else as well: a bloody and violent political and religious conflict imported from more than 8,000 miles away. A conflict whose major player has just been elected prime minister of the largest democracy in the world and who, bizarrely, might also have the power to change the course of a local California election that’s financed by some of technology’s biggest billionaires.

This could well be the weirdest political story unfolding in America right now. And today I’m going to tell it…

“The revelation that his closest associates, have actively recruited and signed for a fake Republican candidate to enter the race is shocking.”

That was how GOP Congressional candidate Vanila Singh reacted to allegations and evidence that the Ro Khanna campaign recruited dummy candidates to split his opponents’ vote. There was something very funny about Singh getting upset about Khanna running dummy candidates — considering that she herself was initially recruited to spoil Ro Khanna’s campaign.

Singh does not like to talk about that anymore — and her campaign now cuts off access to any journalist who dares to ask — but Singh was quite candid about it just after she officially entered the race earlier this year, telling a local paper that she had decided to run for Congress at the prodding of Shalabh Kumar — a rightwing Chicago businessman who had it in for Ro Khanna.

The bizarre motive? It all had to do with a rightwing Hindu supremacist politician named Narendra Modi.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because last week Modi was elected as India’s prime minister when he and his ultranationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide victory. But back when Vanila Singh entered into the race, Modi was still just the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat. He was also persona non grata in the United States. Since 2005, Modi had been on the State Department’s “visa blacklist” for his role in a 2002 bloody and nightmarish anti-Muslim pogrom that left several thousand dead and many more injured and displaced in Gujarat under his watch.

The violence was truly horrific and lasted for weeks. Women, men, children and the elderly were lynched — shot, hacked apart, beaten to death and burned alive. Women were raped; those who were pregnant had their stomachs slit open, fetuses ripped out and burned. Businesses and homes were looted and set on fire. An estimated quarter million people — mostly impoverished Muslims — were driven from their homes and ghettoized.

Anonymous said...

Mike Honda with 49% primary votes will face Ro Khanna with 27% in the general election for Silicon Valley Cong seat in Nov 2014. Pro-Modi Vanilla Singh with 17% is out

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #SiliconValley #Hindu Nationalists "Harass, Bully & Intimidate" Academics @HuffPostBlog … via @theworldpost

The threat to academic freedom that this project might present is what led Sheila Jasanoff of the Harvard Kennedy School to sign, despite the fact that she says she's usually not the type to do so:

".. Because the Indian diaspora has produced such strong ties between Silicon Valley and India, I felt it was important to show that thoughtful academics, with no axes to grind, were concerned by the absence of adequate democratic oversight over a project like "Digital India." I was also in India in August and had a chance to see how the apparent retreat from core values of secularism and free speech make these developments in the digital realm all the more threatening"

Hansen also explained their concerns about possible repercussions, including a curtailment of academic freedom:

"As scholars were approached for support there were some worries that the Government of India might deny research visas or in other ways block the future work of people on the list. This is a legitimate worry considering the record of vindictive actions taken by the Modi government especially against those critical of Modi's record in the state of Gujarat... For those of us who have researched and published on Hindu nationalism for many years, the violent reactions, and the thinly veiled threats are not surprising... The slightly surprising element in the responses is the vehement branding of those of the signatories of Indian background as "traitors" and "saboteurs" of India's development and well-being. This has come with suggestions of stripping these individuals of the citizenship and of course vague threats of other forms of retribution to be exacted by the vast majority who supports Modi. The actual fact is that his parliamentary majority rest on the slimmest proportion of the popular vote ever in the history of independent India (31 percent)"

A report entitled "Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Non-Profit Groups" makes the following claims regarding the strength and nature of the Hindu nationalist movement in the United States:

1. Over the last three decades, a movement toward Hinduizing India--advancing the status of Hindus toward political and social primacy in India-- has continued to gain ground in South Asia and diasporic communities. The Sangh Parivar (the Sangh "family"), the network of groups at the forefront of this Hindu nationalist movement, has an estimated membership numbering in the millions, making the Sangh one of the largest voluntary associations in India. The major organizations in the Sangh include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

2. Hindu nationalism has intensified and multiplied forms of discrimination, exclusion, and gendered and sexualized violence against Muslims, Christians, other minorities, and those who oppose Sangh violations, as documented by Indian citizens and international tribunals, fact-finding groups, international human rights organizations, and U.S. governmental bodies.

3. India-based Sangh affiliates receive social and financial support from its U.S.-based wings, the latter of which exist largely as tax-exempt non-profit organizations in the United States: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Sewa International USA, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation-USA. The Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party - USA (OFBJP) is active as well, though it is not a tax-exempt group.

Riaz Haq said...

Global #Hindu Nationalists: Meet The Army Of #BJP's #NRI Supporters From #America, #Europe. In #election season, hundreds of #NRIs descend on #India to push for #Modi’s second term. #Elections2019 #Islamophobia

London-based software professional Santosh Gupta has taken a six-month break from his hectic work schedule—he is on a mission to secure a second term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Ramesh Shah, 70, is also in India on the same mission, but separately. Both Gupta and Shah are part of the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), the ruling party’s foreign cell that has 25 chapters across the world. With just weeks to go for the first phase of the general elections, hundreds of such BJP supporters are campaigning in India or from abroad­—overseas warriors of the BJP’s vast army of supporters in the battle of ballots.

Gupta and his 30-member team are in India since November; they are among 300 professionals from the UK chapter in India. Last week, Gupta’s team visited a number of colleges and met with students in Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Pune. He is content with the positive feedback they are receiving, except from students of Jawaharlal Nehru University.


The United States chapter of the BJP is also capturing the imagination of the sizeable Indian community. Georgia-based medical professional Dr Vasudev Patel, who is in charge of the ground operations, says Modi made India more prominent in the world map.

Patel, who moved to the US in 1984, shares a personal rapport with Prime Minister Modi. “I have been working with Modi since 1975,” says Patel, who bel­ongs to Mehsana in Gujarat. The campaign is on full swing with ‘chai pe charchas’ being held on a weekly basis in at least 20 cities.

With the elections drawing close, Patel spends at least two hours on a daily basis to coordinate with social media and friends back home. “Every week, a group of at least 150 professionals gather at fam­ous places like World Coca Cola Centre or Times Square, make small videos on the Modi government and post it on social media,” he says. The US chapter, which boasts a membership of 6,000, also has a dedicated team that has been assiduously working to execute plans. Car rallies are also being held in various states to garner support of the Indian community.

Patel says that even senators and governors acknowledge India as a growing power, which wasn’t the case before. “We held a candle march after the Pulwama incident, in which thousands turned up. One senator also took part in the march without any invitation,” says Patel.

Ramesh Shah, who is currently touring villages in India, sums up why the diaspora community passionately bats for the BJP and Modi. Shah, who has been in India since last November, has visited villages in Jharkhand, Gujarat and a few other states. “No other leader connected with the diaspora the way our PM did. He inspires me to do more at this age,” says Shah, who hails from Aravalli in Gujarat. A US-based retired engineer, Shah campaigns along with his wife. “I feel powerful because of the strong leadership.”

Riaz Haq said...

#SiliconValley's #Indian-#American Congressman Ro Khanna talks of the threat of growing #Hindu nationalism. Khanna: “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva" #Hindutva #Islamophobia #Modi #BJP

Khanna said that, having spent much of his career in Northern California's Silicon Valley, he has been immersed in Indian American issues for years. The rising tide of Hindu nationalism is on the forefront of the diaspora’s collective consciousness; from professional spheres to college campuses, reports of Islamophobia and casteism abound in South Asian spaces.

Khanna hasn’t shied away from such conversations, and his vocalness has sparked outrage from right-wing Indian Americans. In 2019, 230 Hindu and Indian American entities wrote letter criticizing Khanna for denouncing Hindu nationalism (also known as Hindutva) and for advocating religious equality on the subcontinent.

“It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians,” Khanna tweeted at the time.

They also criticized Khanna for joining the Congressional Pakistan Caucus and for speaking out against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s revoking the state of Kashmir’s autonomy.

“Of course, we have to fulfill the strategic partnership and we have to respect the democratically elected leadership in India,” Khanna told NBC News. “I will work to strengthen that while also upholding these human rights values.”