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Gopal Krishna to represent Iowa at National GOP convention

July 18, 2012 19:45 IST

Gopal T K Krishna, 65, is undeniably the most influential and powerful Indian American Republican in the important caucus state of Iowa, which for centuries has traditionally held the first presidential caucus in the country's history and thus has been coveted by every incumbent and challenger.

Over the past two-and-a-half decades, the Hyderabad-born and raised Krishna, who immigrated to the United States in 1969 has continued to create history at several levels of the Indian American immigrant political experience, and always by being a quintessential grass-roots activist.

In 1988, he became the first Indian American to be elected as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, when the current Louisiana Governor, Republican Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal was only 17, and probably had no illusions of holding this high political office.

In 1990, Krishna became the first Indian American ever to be elected to the state central committee of a major political party, and continued to create history, when in 1995, when he was elected treasurer of the Republican Party of Iowa, became the first Indian American ever to become a state officer of a party.

On September 7, 1996, his historic march continued when he was elected as state co-chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, once again becoming the first Indian American to hold such a position in a national political party.

And what was most significant about all of the positions he was elected to, was the fact that it was in a state that is over 95 per cent white, and this was the first time a non-Caucasian had been elected state co-chairman of any party, let alone the GOP.

Last month, Krishna was once again creating history when Iowa's 28 delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention elected him as the state's male representative to the National Convention Committee on Resolutions -- the powerful and policymaking Platform Committee -- for the convention that will be held from August 27-30 in Tampa, Florida. 

Every state elects a male delegate and a female delegate to the National Convention Committee on Resolutions, who will be responsible for developing the 2012 Platform for the Republican Party.

Their deliberations on August 20 and 21 are scheduled to be shown live by the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network.

Krishna told, "To be the first Indian American to represent an entire state in such a prestigious committee will be a humbling experience." 

A day earlier, on June 15, he had been elected as a delegate to the GOP's National Convention, after receiving the highest number of votes among the 10 candidates who competed for the three delegate positions during the 3rd Congressional District Presidential Caucus in Des Moines.

Since 1988, when he was first elected as a delegate to the GOP's national convention, Krishna has been elected seven times to the Republican state central committee, twice as the treasurer of the Republican Party of Iowa and three times as the state co-chair of the Republican Party of Iowa.

Krishna told that during the presidential primaries and before erstwhile Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney clinched the Republican presidential nomination, he had remained neutral and not endorsed any of the several GOP candidates on the slate.

"Being a member of the Republican state central committee -- a 17 member board of directors for the Republican Party of Iowa -- I stayed neutral in the presidential race in order to extend equal welcome to all the candidates," he said, and noted that he was part of the organising committee on January 3 Caucuses 'that started the nominating process for all presidential candidates'.

Krishna noted, "Being a member, I was an automatic delegate to the Congressional district and state conventions. Even though my Congressional district comprised of all new counties, I was elected to an unprecedented 7th two-year term in the committee during the third Congressional district convention on April 21.  I received highest votes among the nine candidates who competed for 4 positions in the committee."

He explained, "Iowa's delegates are not bound by any law to vote for any particular candidate.  They can vote for who ever they want."

However, Krishna acknowledged, "All of them will probably vote for Romney, who, as you know, has a sufficient number of bound delegates from other states to become the nominee," and hence his official confirmation as the nominee during the convention is a formality.

Describing how he was elected to the powerful national platform committee, Krishna said, "After the conclusion of the Republican state convention on June 16, Iowa's 28 delegates elected me to the national platform committee.  Every party activist tries to be a member of the county platform committee, district platform committee and the state platform committee."

"The national platform committee is the crown jewel of all those platform committees.  Therefore, getting elected to the national Platform Committee -- an opportunity that is available only every four years -- is quite an honor not only for me but for all the Indian Americans in this country."

He said, "During the deliberations on August 20 and 21, I plan to take care of state issues such as support for Iowa's renewable energy industry, bio-fuels industry and insurance industry and farming issues such as crop insurance, subsidies, soil conservation, etc."

Krishna said, "On a personal level, I will make every effort to have an input in the preservation and protection of civil liberties, support for India's nuclear power industry to help reduce pollution, bilateral trade with India that will help develop both the US and India, in terms of jobs and ease the unemployment situation in this country, and support for immigration of intellectuals and professionals from India who can help grow US and create jobs in this country, etc." 

In interviews with  over the years, Krishna, who is a life member of the Republican Presidential Task Force and the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle, has always advocated grass-roots activism.

"This is the only way to go if our community wants to gain political empowerment. If we want credibility, we have to do grass-roots work. If you look at all the successful politicians around, they have all gone through the grass-roots process, from stuffing envelopes to campaigning for different candidates."

Thus, he argued, "We need to follow the same process. Just because some of us have lots of money and we throw that money in support of some candidates that does not bring us the same credibility as when we are involved in grass-roots activism."

Krishna said, "It is the grass-roots activism that really lays the foundation not only for us but for future generations to run for Congress and the Senate."

He bemoaned the Indian American political culture saying, "We try to buy power rather than earn respect. We want to fly in by helicopter, rather than climb the ladder."

While acknowledging that money does get attention and provide access, Krishna argued, "Politicians ultimately trust people who give them their time."

"People power is amazing," he said, and in typical straight-talking, shoot-from-the-hip mid-westerner, declared, "Money is not going to buy certain things."

At the time he was first elected co-chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, he said, "The fact that I, as an Indian, as an immigrant, as a non-Caucasian, could be elected co-chairman of a political party in a predominantly white state shows that we can do it anywhere in the country. We simply have to take one step at a time whenever the proper opportunity arises."

When Krishna was elected co-chairman in 1996, Brian Kennedy, who at the time was the head of the GOP in Iowa told this correspondent, "Gopal has been an instrumental leader in the Iowa Republican Party ever since he joined the central committee in 1990. He has been a guiding force in eliminating the state party debt and building up a substantial surplus that will help our candidates."

"Of course, how could we go wrong with someone whose first name starts with G-O-P?" Kennedy quipped.

 Krishna is a graduate of the Methodist Boys' Multipurpose Higher Secondary School in Hyderabad.  He received his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical Engineering from Osmania University, Hyderabad, and after immigrating to the US, he received three masters degrees -- Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Kansas in Lawrence, Master of Business Administration degree from Drake University in Des Moines,  and Master of Science degree in Sanitary Engineering from Iowa State University in Ames.

He is the founder and president of Krishna Engineering Consultants, Inc, which has provided engineering and surveying services to 244 clients on 1, 098 projects in 12 States during the past 32 years.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC