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American Indian Congressman Ami Bera’s re-election is at risk due to father’s illegal funding

Father Babulal Bera pleads guilty to election fraud

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Ami Bera. Image: flickr
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The 83-year-old father of Ami Bera, the only Indian descent Congressman has pleaded guilty to illegally funding his son’s election campaigns with at least $260,000, putting at risk his re-election this year in November.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell announced Tuesday that Babulal Bera admitted to making contributions to Ami Bera’s two election campaigns fraudulently in the names of other people and over the legal limit.

Prosecutors have cleared Ami Bera of involvement in the campaign funding scam, but it makes his reelection prospects harder as he is already facing opposition in his constituency from trade unions in his own Democratic Party. He was reelected to a second term in 2014 by less than 1,500 votes after a bruising campaign. The race was the costliest House of Representatives campaign that year with the two parties together running up a tab of $21 million.

Babulal Bera and Ami Bera Image: fox40.com
Babulal Bera and Ami Bera
Image: fox40.com

Federal prosecutor Phillip A. Talbert told reporters on Tuesday that there was “no indication” that the Democratic Representative or his staff were involved in the illegal election financing and that they had cooperated with the prosecutors.

Ami Bera, a medical doctor who represents the from the 7th California District in the state capital area, told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that he had no idea that his father had illegally financed his campaign. He said that he has sent the money contributed by his father to the US government.

In 2010 Ami Bera lost his first election campaign for the House of Representative for which his father, a retired chemical engineer, contributed $240,000. The successful 2012 campaign received $40,000 from his father.

According to the Federal Election Commission, the maximum amount an individual can contribute to a candidate was $2,400 in 2010 and $2,500 in 2012.

Babulal Bera was charged in the federal court for the Eastern California in Sacramento before Judge Troy L. Nunley, who is to sentence him in August. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years on two charges, but is unlikely get the harsh penalty given his age. The Los Angeles Times reported that the prosecutors are recommending a prison term of upto 30 months.

Court papers said that Babulal Bera asked about 90 friends and relatives to send over 130 contributions to his son’s campaign in their own names and then he reimbursed them so that he himself will not appear to have exceeded the legal funding limits.

He is the third person of Indian descent to run afoul of the election laws in the past two years. Conservative author Dinesh D’Souza was convicted in 2014 of illegally contributing $20,000 to the unsuccessful Republican Senate campaign of his college friend, Wendy Long. Although New York federal prosecutor Preet Bharara sought a jail term, the judge gave him a $30,000 fine and eight months of community confinement that allowed him to continue working.

Sant Singh Chatwal, a hotelier, pleaded guilty in 2014 to making illegal contributions of $188,000 to three candidates and was fined $500,000 and sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service. In an unusual move, the federal prosecutor in Brooklyn at that time, Loretta Lynch, did not disclose who received Chatwal’s illegal contributions. Media reports, however, identified one of the recipients as Hillary Clinton who received them when she ran for Senate. Lynch is now the US Attorney General.

The scandal casts a shadow on Ami Bera’s reelection bid in November when he will face the Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones. He is up against serious opposition within his own party because of his support for President Barack Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which trade unions consider anti-labour.

Because of trade union opposition he was unable get the endorsement of his local party unit to run for reelection and he had to get the backing of the state party convention. Unions have held protests against him in his district and vowed to defeat him as they say 12-nation TPP will lead to loss of jobs and lower wages in the US because of the cheaper imports it will allow.

Ami Bera’s 2014 victory was a nail-biter. On election night he was about 3,000 votes behind Republican Doug Ose, but as postal and other ballots were tallied over a two-week period he emerged the winner by just 1,432 votes.

According to media reports, Bera raised $3.7 million and outside organisations like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $6.5 million promoting him in the 2014 election. Ose raised $3.2 million and the National Republican Congressional Committee and others contributed almost $7 million to campaign for him. (IANS)

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15 Amazing facts about Indian National Song: Vande Mataram

The National song of India, Vande Mataram is considered as the foundation of encouragement to the people in their struggle for freedom.

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Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote the lyrics of Vande Mataram. Wikimedia Commons
Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote the lyrics of Vande Mataram. Wikimedia Commons
  • Vande Mataram was originally written in 1876 and appeared in Anandamath in 1881
  • Well before the Congress’ Varanasi session on September 7, 1905, Vande Mataram was adopted as the `National Song’ and won India’s heart as its war cry of freedom
  • Poet Sarala Devi Chaudurani sang the national song in the Benares Congress Session in 1905

‘Vande Mataram’, is no less than an epic for our country and holds a special place in the heart of every Indian. The first two words of the title itself are sufficient to induce a great feeling of patriotism.

It would be a surprise for many to know that September 7, 2006, was not the centenary of Vande Mataram. On the contrary, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote the lyrics of Vande Mataram well before he penned Anandamath, his novel, which described unified Bengal’s sanyasi uprising against tyrannical Muslim rule in the 1770s.

For better clarification, Vande Mataram was originally written in 1876 and appeared in Anandamath in 1881.

The National song was a part of Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s most famous novel Anand Math. Wikimedia Commons
Vande Mataram was a part of Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s most famous novel Anand Math. Wikimedia Commons

Thus, 2006 was not the 100th year of Vande Mataram, but the 129th anniversary of the `National Song”, which was first recited at the Indian National Congress session of 1896.

Also Read: 10 Must Knowing Facts about Indian Flag

Well before the Congress’ Varanasi session on September 7, 1905, Vande Mataram was adopted as the `National Song’ and won India’s heart as its war cry of freedom.

On January 24, 1950, it was brought at par with the National Anthem officially by the Constituent Assembly.

The protest against Vande Mataram because of its ‘idolatrous’ content began in the 1890s. The Congress party surrendered before Islamic opposition at its Kakinada session in 1923 not only on the Vande Mataram issue but also to all symbols and values held national.

The recent HRD ministerial diktat to compulsorily sing the song throughout the country occupied much media space and ignited a debate on India’s national song’s journey over the last 130 years.

Also Read: 15 Amazing Facts About The Revolutionary Bhagat Singh

The song served as a source of immense strength and inspiration for freedom fighters before India gained freedom.

The Sangh Parivar, better known as the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) celebrated the 125th anniversary of the song in 2002. Wikimedia Commons
The Sangh Parivar, better known as the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) celebrated the 125th anniversary of the song in 2002. Wikimedia Commons

Take a look at some of the glorious facts related to our National song, ‘Vande Mataram’.

  1. The National song, ‘Vande Mataram’ was written by the great Bengali poet and writer, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee.
  2. On January 24, 1950, it was adopted as the National Song of India.
  3. The National song of India, Vande Mataram is considered as the foundation of encouragement to the people in their struggle for freedom. The National song of India is versed in the Sanskrit and Bengali languages, in the novel ‘Anandmath’ by Bankim Chandra Chatterji.
  4. The former President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, on January 24, 1950, came up with a declaration in the Constituent Assembly that the song Vande Mataram, which had played a significant part in the historic freedom struggle held in India, should be honoured equally with Jana Gana Mana and must give equal status to it.
  5. The National song was a part of Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s most famous novel Anand Math (1882) which is set in the events of Sannyasi rebellion.
  6. The first translation of Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s novel Anand Math, into English was done by Nares Chandra Sen-Gupta, in 1906.
  7. In the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress, it was the first political event when the National song was sung. On the same occasion, the national song of India was first sung by the Rabindranath Tagore.
  8. Poet Sarala Devi Chaudurani sang the national song in the Benares Congress Session in 1905.
  9. The Iron Man of India, Lala Lajpat Rai, published a journal called Vande Mataram from Lahore.

    Dr. Rajendra Prasad, on January 24, 1950, came up with a declaration that Vande Mataram should be honoured equally with Jana Gana Mana and must give equal status to it. Wikimedia Commons
    Dr. Rajendra Prasad, on January 24, 1950, came up with a declaration that Vande Mataram should be honoured equally with Jana Gana Mana and must give equal status to it. Wikimedia Commons
  10. Vande Mataram was recited in the first political film made by Hiralal Sen in 1905.
  11. The Sangh Parivar, better known as the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) celebrated the 125th anniversary of the song in 2002.
  12. Two stanzas of the original song have been officially declared as the National Song of India in 1950 after the independence of India.
  13. The song was originally written in two languages, Sanskrit and Bengali, in the novel ‘Anandmath’.
  14. It was also sung by the Dakhina Charan Sen in 1901 after five years during another Congress meeting at Calcutta.
  15. India’s first political film Hiralal Senmade, made in 1905 ends with the chant Vande Mataram.