"Iowa had a special place in the election as the first state to conduct the caucus. When Obama appeared on the campaign scene there, he was virtually unknown compared to Senator John Edwards or Senator Hillary Clinton," Nakhasi, who was called the 'campus king maker' during the election cycle, said.
Candidates needed Nakhasi, in his capacity of president of the University Democrats, to organise meetings inside the campus. He stayed neutral through the Democratic primaries, before throwing his weight behind Obama for the general election. In the process, he met the Democratic nominee at least four times.
On the eve of the inauguration, Nakhasi is excited and looking forward to a crammed schedule. "I plan to be present at the swearing in on Tuesday, the parade afterwards, the Urban Ball Tuesday night, and the Iowa Congressional Delegation Reception Tuesday afternoon." Nakhasi, who will graduate in May, will then go on to join medical school.
Two other Indian-American students are part of the group for the inauguration. Vinay Ramanathan, a freshman at the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan and a member of the Presidential Classroom, will join a caucus of Presidential Classroom alumni from around the country for an insiders' view of the transition. He will attend the swearing-in ceremony and the Inaugural Parade, and party at the Presidential Classroom's Inaugural Ball.
Prachi Makkar, a seventh grader in the Florence M Gaudineer School of Springfield, New Jersey, will attend as part of the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. She had earlier attended the Junior National Young Leaders Conference for outstanding 6th and 7th graders in Washington, DC, and met several elected leaders.Image: Atul Nakhasi with Vice President-elect Joe Biden