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Republicans launch Indians for McCain
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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August 28, 2008 14:36 IST

About two dozen young Indian-American Republicans, including several current and erstwhile Bush administration officials and Congressional aides, launched Indians for McCain, a group aiming to get the community to support Senator John McCain's [Images] Presidential campaign.

Longtime Republican Party stalwart and fundraiser Sudhakar Shenoy -- one of the co-founders of the Indian-American Republican Council -- backed the project. The effort, launched at Shenoy's sprawling estate in Great Falls, Virginia, will have former McCain Campaign national Asian American outreach coordinator Kishan Kumar Putta as its point person. Putta will work full time to recruit and unify Indian-American Republicans at the grassroots level to support McCain, the way the Democratic South Asians for Obama have for Senator Barack Obama's [Images] Presidential bid.

Helping Putta to put the initiative together has been another young Indian-American Republican activist, Ajay Kuntamukkala.

Kuntamukkala said the organisation includes many young Indian Americans who have worked or are working in the administration, or on Capitol Hill, and a lot of people working in important positions around town.

"South Asians for Obama has had a long time to organise -- and good for them -- and so they've had a head start on this. But we got to ramp up as quickly as possible," Putta said.

He said though the initiative was to help McCain win, a valuable side-benefit would be the unification of Indian Republicans -- and independents -- nationwide.

"We will do this through a massive earned-media campaign and a robust Web portal," he said. He exhorted those present to help generate word of mouth buzz across the country "through your uncles and aunts," and establishing teams of volunteers. He also asked them to use their presence at next month's Republican National Convention.

Putta disclosed plans to organise an Indian-American event at the convention and to invite Louisiana Governor Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal and South Carolina state legislator Nikki Randhawa Haley.

Shenoy said, "As you know, 80 to 85 percent of all Indian Americans are probably Democrats� I've asked several of them why and I am not sure that anybody can give me a straight answer other than to say that they are Democrats."

A multi-millionaire entrepreneur who is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of IMC Inc, in Reston, Virginia, Shenoy is considered the godfather of Indian-American information technology entrepreneurs in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. An Indian Institute of Technology-Mumbai alumnus, he is former president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the first and only Indian American to head this powerful lobby of leading information technology companies in the Dulles Technology Corridor, considered Virginia's Silicon Valley.

Shenoy said, "There are few things that boggle my mind as to why the community supports Barack Obama. First of all, from the viewpoint of entrepreneurship, from the viewpoint of preserving wealth, he is just against it� None of us here is for big government; he is all for it. And the list goes on."

"Take the US-India civilian nuclear agreement. He has said that he is going to oppose it," Shenoy added.

Obama recently said that although he had concerns about the non-proliferation aspects of the original accord when it was first debated in Congress, he has no intention of seeking its renegotiation.

"Yet, when I talk to them [Indian-American Democrats], for this one time they say, 'Well, we are Americans. We really shouldn't care about what he says about what happens in India.'

"That's not true," Shenoy argued. "A lot of these people are also concerned about what happens in India. The civilian nuclear agreement for example, is probably the single-most important thing that we could help make happen."

The guest keynoter at the event, Grover Norquist, said, "The good news in this election is that it is extremely winnable for McCain."

Among the senior Bush administration officials in attendance were Neil Suryakant Patel, Vice President Dick Cheney's assistant for domestic and economic policy; Vishal Amin, associate director, Domestic Policy Council at the White House; Anoop Prakash, deputy chief of staff, Department of Housing and Urban Development; Ash Jain, member, Policy Planning Staff, Department of State; Pratik Chougule of the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; Suhail Khan of the Department of Transportation; and Korok Ray, till recently a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and now a professor of economics at Georgetown University.

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