| Bhupathi: Beyond tennis
New York, Aug. 31: Mahesh Bhupathi and Bombay Dreams are at the centrestage of the Republican National Convention here which opened yesterday to renominate George W. Bush for a second four-year term in the White House.
Bhupathi’s presence at a reception hosted by the Indian American Republican Council (IARC) transformed a routine political event on the margins of the convention into one of celebrity status.
The tennis star is here to take part in the US Open: an event which has brought welcome diversion to New Yorkers fed up with the weeklong restrictions and security requirements imposed on them by the convention which has transported much of the US government and America’s Republican political class from the capital to the Big Apple.
Bhupathi is not a Republican sympathiser — at least not a self-confessed one, yet. His presence at the reception was the result of political activism by an Indian American friend of long standing: Dr Priscilla Parameswaran of New Jersey.
Bhupathi was in exalted company at the reception hosted by Indian Americans campaigning for the re-election of Bush. Katherine Harris, who is to Republicans what Narendra Modi is to the BJP, lent respectability and weight to the IARC by her presence and a short speech praising Indian Americans in her home state of Florida.
Bush, it may be recalled, would not have been in the White House today if it were not for Harris.
As Florida’s secretary of state in 2000, it was Harris who certified the victory of Bush even as his rival Al Gore went from pillar to post, all the way to the US Supreme Court, seeking a recount of votes in Florida that may have got the Democrats into the White House instead.
As a reward, Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of the President, got Harris a seat in the US House of Representatives and she is bound to go places if she wins re-election to Congress in November and Republicans retain the presidency.
Another political heavyweight at the reception was Tom Gallagher, now Florida’s chief financial officer. Republicans say he will replace Jeb Bush as the state’s governor in 2006.
Republicans who arrived in New York during the weekend, ahead of the opening of the convention yesterday, provided some welcome oxygen to Bombay Dreams, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-A.R. Rahman musical about Bollywood, which has been languishing on Broadway since its much-publicised opening a few months ago.
It was among the Broadway shows to which the convention organisers herded delegates as part of their welcome and evening entertainment. Interviews with delegates, especially some from remote towns with little exposure to Indian Americans or Bollywood, revealed that Bombay Dreams left them bewildered rather than entertained.
The IARC reception was to felicitate 10 Indian Americans who are delegates to the four-day convention and 20 Indian Americans who have been appointed by Bush to various jobs in his administration. The master of ceremonies was Congressman Joseph Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, who is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.