Obama’s Gujarati Aide Has RSS Roots*

HIMMATNAGAR (SABARKANTHA): Gujarati expat Sonal Shah (40), an eminent economist who heads Googles philanthropic arm and has now been appointed an advisory board member by US President-elect Barack Obama to assist his team in smooth transition of power, comes from a family rooted in Sangh Parivar in Gujarat.

Her father Ramesh Shah, who hails from Gabat village in Sabarkantha, has been associated with Vishwa Hindu Parishad for the last 30 years. The family is now settled in Houston, Texas, where Shah founded the Gujarati Samaj.

A mechanical engineer who migrated to US in 1970, Shah has been working with Morgan Stanley as a financial adviser and also playing an active role in VHPs activities in the US, as member of the governing council. In particular, he has headed the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation which collects funds from US residents to fund tribal schools in India run by Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad.

Sources in VHP here said that Sonals family was a “deep believer in Sangh ideology”, although she did not have any direct links with the RSS outfits in the US. Sonal is now on a panel comprising individuals with significant private and public sector experience who will offer their expertise in their respective fields to Obamas transition team.

Sonal was named person of the year 2003 by India Abroad publication, recognising her role as co-founder of US-based non-profit organisation Indicorps which offers one-year fellowships for Indian-Americans to work on specific development projects in India.

The Shahs philanthropic streak, which is common to both father and daughter, is also evident in Gabat, a village 90 kms north of Ahmedabad and inhabited by 10,000 persons. Shah still visits his house in Uncha Bazar area every year and takes personal interest in a public library named after his mother.

Gabat villagers got in touch with Shahs cousin Mukund Shah on Friday insisting that Sonal should be given a public reception. Her father was immediately contacted and he has promised to bring her over shortly.

(* 8 Nov 2008, 0034 hrs IST, Pramod Panwar, TNN).


1 Comment

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One response to “Obama’s Gujarati Aide Has RSS Roots*

  1. Shital

    I was an Indicorps fellow and volunteered for one year in Gujarat, working with an NGO that provides non-formal education to child laborers in the slum areas of Bhavnagar, Gujarat. From first-hand experience, Sonal Shah is an inclusive, tolerant, and service-oriented individual, and this shows through in the way she shaped Indicorps, in addition to all her other commendable work. The diverse members of Indicorps and its projects is a reflection of the united and empowered India that she tirelessly works for.

    Sonal should be congratulated for her appointment to Obama’s Transition Team and for breaking new ground for Indian-Americans and, in fact, the global Indian diaspora.

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