A record number of Indian Americans have been elected to Congress
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A record number of Indian Americans were elected to Congress earlier this month, bringing the total number to five in both the House and Senate. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash) will join two-term Congressman Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraOut of their lane: DC celebs go bowling for charity The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Calif.) as the newest Indian American members of the legislative branch. 

Ami Bera (D-Calif.), who recently won re-election after prevailing in a tight recount contest, is the only Indian American currently serving in the legislative branch. Harris will head to the Senate while the others will all serve in the House of Representatives.

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Although more than 3.4 million Indians Americans reside in the United States, the community has traditionally been underrepresented in the national legislature.

Only three Indian Americans have ever served in the history of Congress. Judge Dilip Singh Saund became the first Asian-American member elected to the House of Representatives in 1956 where he represented Southern California’s Riverside County for three terms.

Several decades later, Louisiana Republican Bobby Jindal served in the House of Representatives from 2005-2008 before being elected governor of his state. 

Congressman Bera has been representing parts of Northern California in Congress since 2012. A physician who previously served as a dean of admissions at the UC Davis School of Medicine and chief medical officer of Sacramento County, Bera has emerged as a leading voice on behalf of both the Indian American community and U.S. — India bilateral relationship during his time in Congress.

In addition to his various committee memberships, Bera is the Co-Chair and of the House Caucus on Indians and Indian Americans. Formed in 1993, the Caucus constitutes a bipartisan group of members dedicated to championing strong ties between the U.S. and India and supporting the Indian American community.

Although Bera feels honored to be the sole Indian American in Congress, he is excited to be joined by four others in the upcoming congressional term. “It has been a privilege serving as the only Indian American in Congress but we are long overdue to have other community members here as well, Bera says.  “I am looking forward to having all these immensely talented women and men join me on Capitol Hill, many of whom I consider friends.” 

The roster of Indian Americans elected just weeks ago is an impressive one. Senator-elect Kamala Harris is arguably one of the most popular figures not just in California, but in the Democratic Party.

A former district attorney in San Francisco, Harris is the current Attorney General of California, and has proven to be a formidable and effective public servant. The daughter of a Jamaican American father and an Indian American mother, Harris will bring more than two decades of government experience to the United States Senate where she will replace retiring Senator Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerFour more lawmakers say they’ve been sexually harassed by colleagues in Congress California Hispanics are the vanguard for a new political paradigm Trump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job MORE. Harris’ name is being increasingly floated as a possible presidential contender in the 2020 election.  

In Washington’s 7th congressional district, Pramila Jayapal has made history by becoming the first Indian American woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. The state senator and former immigrants rights activist ran a high-octane campaign focused on a slate of progressive issues that earned Jayapal a rare endorsement from Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWorld leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report Sanders on Brazile revelations: DNC needs ‘far more transparency’ Sen. Warren sold out the DNC MORE.

After triumphing over eight other challengers in the primary election, Jayapal secured more than 57 percent of the vote in the general election. She will replace longtime Seattle congressman Jim McDermottJim McDermottLobbying World Dem lawmaker: Israel's accusations start of 'war on the American government' Dem to Trump on House floor: ‘Stop tweeting’ MORE who has served in the House since 1988 and is retiring.

Attorney and entrepreneur Raja Krishnamoorthi has been elected to represent Illinois’s 8th congressional district, replacing Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) who in turn heads to the United States Senate. Running on a campaign message that focused on improving the economy and strengthening the middle class, Krishnamoorthi garnered more than 60 percent of the district’s vast and diverse electorate.

The Harvard Law School graduate campaigned tirelessly, knocking on thousands of doors, building a formidable war chest and earning the endorsements of a host of local and national leaders, labor unions and professional organizations. Krishnamoorthi also earned the endorsements of all of Chicago’s major newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Chicago Sun-Times.

In California’s 17th congressional district, technology attorney and Stanford economics lecturer Ro Khanna unseated incumbent and fellow Democrat Mike Honda. 

Often described as the “heart of Silicon Valley,” the district includes some of the world’s leading technology companies, including Apple, Intel, Yahoo! and eBay.

The race attracted nationwide attention and was one of the most expensive in the country. Khanna presented himself as the better-equipped candidate to represent the innovation capital of the world and built a broad coalition of support around a progressive economic message.

He earned praise from across the political spectrum and ultimately won the closely watched race by nearly 20 points.

“We have an extremely deep bench and I am confident of the impact we will all be able to make both on behalf of our constituents and community individually collectively,” Bera says. “We made history with so many Indian Americans being elected this time around, but I know this is just the beginning. There will be many to come in the future.”  

Ronak D. Desai is an Affiliate at the Belfer Center’s India and South Asia Program at Harvard University and a Fellow at New America.


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