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Silicon Valley desis power Clinton campaign

June 22, 2007 17:56 IST
Several Indian-American heavyweights in Silicon Valley came together at a recent fundraiser at the home of venture capitalist Kamal Hasan and his wife Talat at their home in Saratoga, California, to raise several thousands of dollars to beef up the campaign coffers of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination.

The co-chairs for the event were leading IT entrepreneurs Lata Krishnan and Ajay Shah, and Vinod and Dolly Dham. Part of the host committee were attorney Navneet Chugh from Los Angeles, and second-generation Indian Americans in the Bay Area like Ro Khanna, Anjali Kataria, Lakshmi Pratury and Ajay Narain.

Among the guests on hand to write checks for Clinton were leading desi lights of Silicon Valley like The Indus Entrepreneurs founder Kanwal Rekhi, Suhas Patil, Romesh Wadhwani, Sridar Iyengar, Anil Godwani, Naren Bakshi and Dr Anmol Mahal, recently elected president of the 35,000-member California Medical Association.

This was the first Indian-American fundraiser for Clinton not only in Silicon Valley, but on the entire West Coast and was held under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee of which Hasan is a delegate-at-large.

Hasan, founder and chairman of Hitek Ventures Partners, a venture capital company, is the first Indian American to have been appointed an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee last year by Howard Dean, its chairman and erstwhile Presidential candidate.

The Hasans have been staunch Democrats for several years and have established themselves as major fundraisers in the Indian-American community on behalf of the Democratic Party.

In welcoming the guests and Senator Clinton, Hasan said, 'We had two primary objectives in hosting Senator Clinton today -- to continue to raise the political profile of the Indian-American community and to give Hillary a venue and a platform to address issues important to the community.'

Hasan said later that "Senator Clinton has been, and will continue to be, an important voice within the American political landscape and we were interested to hear what she had to say on policy issues important to the community, especially given the breadth and depth of her knowledge on a wide variety of such issues."

He said the love for India that both she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, shared was a given because they had visited "India on a number of occasions" and because they enjoyed widespread support within the community.

However, Hasan told Rediff India Abroad that while his wife has already endorsed Senator Clinton for the Presidency, he has not done so because being a DNC member-at-large "precludes me from endorsing any Presidential candidate," before the nomination. But he said both he and his wife believe that "Hillary's qualifications and experience," speaks for itself in terms of making her a "superb Presidential candidate.'

Hasan acknowledged that both he and his wife were also "very impressed with Senator Barack Obama," and had recently attended a fundraiser for him "to find out more about his views on issues important to the community. So we will continue to monitor his candidacy too very closely."

During the fundraiser for Clinton -- the co-chair of the Friends of India Caucus in the US Senate -- Hasan said a number of questions had been posed by the guests about issues such as immigration, healthcare, food and drug safety, the Iraq war, and, of course, US-India relations. Citing campaign protocol, Hasan declined to disclose the amount of money raised, but said the amount was significant.

According to Hasan, Clinton interacted and mingled with the 75 or so guests at the fundraiser and then spent considerable time "answering a diverse and often complex set of questions" from the audience. He said on the immigration issue, the H-1B visa issue had been brought up and "she made clear that she supported increasing the current cap on H-1B visas."

Hasan said she had pointed out that she had also introduced an amendment to the compromise immigration bill in the Senate "that would remove barriers to family reunification for immigrant families."

Dham, founder, NEA IndoUS Ventures and a Silicon Valley legend for his development of the Intel Pentium chip, spoke of how he was blown away "by the depth and breadth of her knowledge on major political issues, and she came across as genuine, crisp, and confident."

Chugh, founder and former president of the North American South Asian Bar Association, said, "I don't look at Senator Clinton as a Democrat or a politician. She is a true 'World Citizen.' She is smart, knowledgable and experienced. We need a change, and she is perfect."

Hasan said he was particularly elated over the growing involvement of second generation Indian Americans in the political process and noted that several of them like Khanna and Kataria were very active co-hosts of the event and were indefatigable in making sure it did the Indian-American community in California proud.

Kataria, co-founder of Conformia Software, is totally for Clinton, declaring, "Hilary was personable, articulate and very likeable. She struck a deep chord with the audience and she exuded a mix of empathy, experience and forward thinking."

Hasan, who was an integral part of the US-India Friendship Council -- coordinated by North Carolina community activist Swadesh Chatterjee that was instrumental in aggressively lobbying the United States Congress to overwhelmingly approve the enabling legislation to facilitate the consummation of the US-India civilian nuclear agreement -- said fundraisers such as these were "critical in politically empowering the Indian-American community and ensuring that our voice gets heard by those at the highest echelons of government. I think this reception with Senator Clinton played an important role in achieving this goal."

First published in India Abroad

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC