Bay Area Indian Americans Welcome Rahul Gandhi
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Priyanka Suryaneni
San Francisco: Rahul Gandhi landed at San Francisco Airport early Tuesday morning, kicking off his six-day tour to meet and engage with the Indian diaspora in the U.S. Organized by the Indian Overseas Congress, this trip aims to mobilize the NRI population and rally their support for the party.
Later in the evening, he addressed a gathering of about 1000 members in an event called Mohabbat Ki Dukan.
The trip is an extension of the 4000 km Bharat Jodo Yatra that concluded in January earlier this year, said Shan Sankaran, one of the event organizers.
" I just wanted to see what his vision is; tomorrow, if he leads the country, we want to see how he presents himself," said a long-term Congress party admirer, Sailaja Kalluri.
Women Empowerment Telugu Association (WETA) members performed the traditional arti and welcomed Mr. Gandhi. A venue packed with Bay Area NRIs greeted and cheered Mr. Gandhi enthusiastically.
Photo by Priyanka Suryaneni
"On a weekday, in Bay Area, on short notice, in a span of nine days, we were able to pull this together with almost a thousand people, and that's a statement," said Sandeep Vangala, General Secretary, Indian Overseas Congress.
The event began with the playing of the U.S. National Anthem and the singing of "Sare Jahan Se Acha" by children from the Kacchapi Swaradhara School of Music.
Mr.Gandhi spoke about his walkathon, plans for the Congress party for the upcoming elections, and the threat to the "idea of India" under the BJP party.
"All the instruments that we needed to do politics in India, they were controlled by the BJP and the RSS," said Mr. Gandhi in his opening remarks. "It had become quite difficult to act politically. And that's why we decided to walk from the southernmost tip of India to Srinagar," he said.
The evening was briefly interrupted by Khalistani protestors, who were escorted out by the security personnel. Mr. Gandhi used the opportunity to underscore his message of tolerance and point out the contrast between the Congress and BJP parties.
It's the right time that Rahul is visiting, talking about what he accomplished in India, and spreading the message of love for further global good," said Mr. Sankaran expressing his joy that Mr. Gandhi managed to travel despite his ordeals with getting a passport issued.
"Rahul Gandhi spoke from his heart today," said Ahamed Shah, a Hyderabadi American, who resonated with Mr.Gandhi's message. We have been living for years in Silicon Valley and were concerned about the issues like lynching and hate in India, he added.
Referring to the recent Karnataka election win, Zubair Ahmed, a Karnataka native, expressed hope and sees the victory as a reflection of people's wishes to live in harmony, unity, and peace. He hopes that Congress will come back to power at the national level.
A significant number of the attendees showed interest in joining the Congress Party, according to Mr.Vangala. According to him, it's the fight for a secular and democratic India that united and brought various Indian organizations together.
In the next few days, Mr.Gandhi will visit Washington D.C. and New York and continue his efforts to connect with NRIs on the East Coast