| Praneet Kaur, Deepender Hooda
Washington, May 2: India’s “natural alliance” with the US scaled uncharted heights today with a dynastic delegation of Indian MPs reaching out to their dynastic counterparts in America.
An Indian parliamentary delegation, which arrived in New York yesterday and travelled to the US capital for a week of meetings with Americans across the board, has attracted unprecedented attention here because half its members are heirs to the political legacy of older, established Indian leaders.
The US, despite being the world’s oldest functioning democracy, has its dynasties right from the White House down to gubernatorial mansions in states, the Senate, House of Representatives, state legislatures and even mayoral offices.
The Indian MPs, now in the US, have been brought here by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) through the efforts of the CII’s public policy council, set up 15 years ago in a nascent effort at that time to build a consensus between the industry and public figures through briefings and dialogue on social, economic and strategic issues.
The eight-member delegation is led by the Biju Janata Dal’s Rajya Sabha member B.J. Panda, a veteran in Indo-US parliamentary activity who has led several previous groups of MPs on visits here.
But American interest in the delegation is focused on two of its members who have connections with India’s royalty and are heirs to their families’ political lineage.
They are Praneet Kaur, Congress member of the Lok Sabha from Punjab, who belongs to the royal household of Patiala, and BJP’s Lok Sabha member Manvendra Singh, son of former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh of the Jodhpur royal household. Kaur is the wife of Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh.
Americans have also been captivated by a new face in Indian politics, who is a member of the team: Deepender Singh Hooda, 28, one of the youngest members of the current Lok Sabha.
American interest in Hooda, son of Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, also stems from his bio-data, distributed among the delegation’s interlocutors here ahead of the group’s visit. The junior Hooda’s intellectual passion includes a “keen interest” in the American civil war, Marxism and the French revolution. His American connections go back to the time when he was a student of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
Sachin Pilot, son of the late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot, is already a familiar figure among many of his American counterparts. He is not only an alumnus of the prestigious Wharton School, but also worked for General Motors, before being inducted into politics after his father’s death.
The delegation’s brochure is unabashed about the dynastic nature of its composition, aware that it will catch American fancy.
An introduction to Kaur begins by saying that she belongs to the Patiala royal family and is married to the Punjab chief minister. Similarly, an introduction to Manvendra Singh opens by pointing out that he is Jaswant Singh’s son.
Thanks to the delegation’s profile, doors have been freely opened for the group here, in New York and in Georgia, where it will meet state governor Sonny Perdue.
Today, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had a 45-minute interaction with the MPs, who are also meeting deputy national security adviser J.D. Crouch. Other meetings include sessions at the US Centre for Disease Control, the Council on Foreign Relations, the US India Business Council, the New York Stock Exchange and the National Endowment for Democracy, in addition to meetings with members of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.
The CII’s success in bringing these MPs here is a signal victory for the organisation in its long-running competition with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which hitherto had a virtual monopoly on bilateral parliamentary exchanges with the US through the Indo-US Forum of Parliamentarians (IUFP), sponsored by the latter.
Panda is chairman of the IUFP while most of the MPs on the CII-sponsored mission are members of the joint parliamentary organisation.