Joe Biden keeps Dems with RSS-BJP links out

Sandeep Dikshit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 21

As strategists parse the nearly 20 Indian-Americans appointed in the Biden administration, noteworthy are those who didn’t make it.

Obama administration staffer Sonal Shah as well as Amit Jani, who worked on the Biden campaign team, have so far been excluded, allegedly due their RSS-BJP links, which has been brought into the limelight by over a dozen Indian-American organisations.

Biden’s team has people like senior diplomat Uzra Zeya, who had played a role in the Devyani Khobragade case, or Samira Fazili, who had joined protest rallies in the US against the CAA, NRC and the Kashmir lockdown. But those with RSS-BJP links have not found a place as secular Indian-American organisations have maintained the pressure on the Biden-Harris transition team to keep such individuals on the sidelines, said sources.

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The Democrats may have been more circumspect over accommodating pro-BJP-RSS elements in the government following renewed activism by organisations opposed to the Hindutva project and also after witnessing the fate of such candidates, added the sources.

Congressional candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni lost the elections after strident opposition from Indian-American organisations and former US Congressperson Tulsi Gabbard also lost political ground because of this reason.

Sonal Shah has served on Biden’s unity task force but her father was the president of Overseas Friends of BJP-USA and is the founder of RSS-run Ekal Vidyalaya for which she has raised funds.

Jani’s may have been the case of lax vetting. Name Biden campaign’s ‘Muslim Outreach’ coordinator, he was re-appointed National Asian American and Pacific Islander Director after it was pointed out that his family had ties with PM Modi and other BJP leaders.

To ensure the Biden administration does not backtrack on excluding those with RSS-BJP links, 19 Indian-American organisations have written to Biden pointing out that many South Asian-American individuals with ties to far-right Hindu organisations in India are affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Key omissions

Sonal Shah: Obama admn ex-staffer, she served in Biden’s unity task force. Her father was Overseas Friends of BJP-USA chief and founded RSS-run Ekal Vidyalaya

Amit Jani: He was the ‘Muslim Outreach’ coordinator of ‘Name Biden’ campaign. His family reportedly has ties with PM Modi and other BJP leaders

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