Ro Khanna will leave lasting impact on American politics, says his relatives

Lalit K Jha
·4-min read

Washington, Dec 20 (PTI) Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna is a 'dynamic and progressive' thinker who will make a positive contribution to public affairs in the US and leave an indelible impact on American politics, according to his family members.

Khanna, who represents the Silicon Valley in the US House of Representatives was recently named as the Democratic Vice Chair of the Congressional India Caucus. The seat has been created for the first time since its formation in 1994.

In an email interview to PTI, sisters of Khanna's father Nalini Narayan and Meera Parkhe recalled the 44-year-old Congressman’s fondness for India.

'Rohit was an affectionate and friendly child with an eager and questioning mind. He relished Indian sweets, in particular, Jalebi and homemade Saveiyan (popular Indian desserts) which Biji (his grandmother) made it a point to make for him. He enjoyed mangoes too which we would specially get for him during his visits over the summer holidays,' they said.

He and his cousins would spend hours chatting, playing cricket or watching movies.

'Even at a young age, Rohit displayed a sense of vision and a passion for making a difference. He looked forward to his time in Delhi and enjoyed his holidays,' they said.

As a young kid, Khanna was a frequent visitor to India and spent his time with family members in Delhi.

“Rohit was deeply attached to his grandparents and would avidly listen to his grandfather sharing his experiences of life. They would have lengthy conversations, sharing their views on a wide range of subjects,” said Nalini and Meera.

“Rohit is a dynamic and progressive thinker who will make a positive contribution to public affairs in the US and work with honesty, integrity, and sincerity for the welfare of all Americans. We are confident that he will continue to succeed and make a lasting impact on American politics,” they said.

Khanna, who was recently elected for a third consecutive term from the congressional district representing Silicon Valley, is being considered as a potential contender to fill the US Senate seat from California that will fall vacant in January after Kamala Harris is sworn in as the country’s vice president on January 20.

Born in Philadelphia in 1976, Khanna is the youngest of the four Indian-American lawmakers in the US House of Representatives. The other three being Dr Ami Bera, 55, who is the senior-most member of the so-called ‘Samosa Caucus’, Raja Krishnamoorthi, 47, and Pramila Jayapal, 55.

Khanna’s father is a chemical engineer who graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Michigan, and his mother is a former substitute school teacher.

A strong supporter of the India-US relationship. He previously served in the Obama administration, as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Commerce from August 2009, to August 2011.

“Right from his childhood, Rohit was a very loving, caring, and intelligent child. Always curious and observant to know about India, its cultural and religious heritage, and our political ideology. He would spend hours with his grandfather listening to him,” said his aunt Aruna Shaiva.

“We are very glad and proud of Rohit for carrying the legacy of his grandfather to the USA and building upon his legacy devoting all his life for his country. We see the same zeal in Rohit for America and the people of America, who nurtured him and made him a capable, compassionate good human being,” she said.

Shaiva said she always looked forward to Khanna and his family’s visit to India. Khanna has family members in Delhi and Punjab.

“It was so heartening to have them visit us every year and spend many weeks here despite the Delhi heat,” she said.

“Loved fulfilling his requests for Indian sweets like Mango Rabri and Shahi Tukra (bread pudding). It was fun to see him engage in sometimes passionate arguments with his younger brother. They were close to each other and Rohit would often diffuse arguments by just looking at him and giggling,” she recalled.

First elected to the US Congress in 2016 by defeating incumbent Mike Honda, Khanna in the short span of four years has not only made a mark for himself within the Democratic Party but also at the national stage on key issues ranging from foreign policy, national security, environment, commerce and manufacturing jobs.

He identifies himself as a progressive capitalist and was a national co-chair of Senator Bernie Sanders's 2020 presidential campaign.

Khanna's maternal grandfather, Amarnath Vidyalankar, was part of India's independence movement, working with Lala Lajpat Rai, and spent years in jail in the pursuit of human rights and freedom. PTI LKJ MRJ AKJ MRJ