Top Trump Official Raj Shah Graces Event, Faces Barrage of Political Remarks

(L-R) Frank Islam, Sunil Singh, Raj Shah and Shambhu Banik

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Falls Church, VA – Raj Shah, one of the top ranked officials in the White House graced the occasion as the local Indian American community observed the 72nd Independence Day of the world’s biggest democracy near the capital of the world’s oldest democracy. But the event was marred by politicizing as the keynote speaker Frank Islam, a Democrat and longtime associate of top Democrat leaders, lambasted Trump’s policies.

Shah, the soft -spoken Republican political aide serving as the White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary and Deputy Assistant to President Donald Trump, had to face an unexpected challenge but he very aptly defended the administration’s policies.

Trump Policy Bashing by Islam

In his controversy laden keynote address, Islam noted, “For much of the twentieth century, the United States of America was the absolute leader in promoting and promulgating democracy and democratic values internationally.”

Frank Islam on stage keynote
Frank Islam lambasting US President Donald Trump’s policies at an event celebrating India’s 72nd Independence Day

Without mincing words, Islam blamed Trump’s leadership as the one which “has eroded and virtually disappeared,” that international lead for the US.

Listing the White House policies, Islam continued, “Trump’s obsessive emphasis on America First; the withdrawal from involvement with traditional allies and international agreements; the confounding relationship with Russia compounded by the sickening sideshow with Putin in Helsinki; combined with the instigation of trade wars will lead to the inevitable conclusion of America not being first – but America being alone and last. A nation cannot lead from that position.”

Shah Shows Diplomacy

Shah responded with grace, aplomb, and a dash of humor. He reminded Islam that because of the opportunity of free speech in the US, he could deliver his scathing remarks against the Trump administration.

Raj Shah on dias speaking
Raj Shah, the White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary and Deputy Assistant to President Donald Trump

Without mentioning it by name, but hitting on Islam’s much touted donations to the Democratic Party, Shah noted that anyone can not only speak one’s mind but also donate to anyone of choice. Shah added a punch of humor as he said, “I probably can’t afford to donate to whoever I want.”

Shah also listed dedicated service of some of the top Indian Americans serving under President Trump, including Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN and Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Shah Honored with Distinguished Service Award

Shah was present throughout the hours long event with his parents Promila and Suresh Shah, who basked in the glory and felicitations showered on their son by the Indian American community.

Raj Shah with his parents
Raj Shah with with his parents Promila and Suresh Shah

Shah was bestowed with a Distinguished Service Award during the celebrations. He told the audience that he had recently celebrated his father’s 70th birthday and his parents have now spent “more years as American citizens” than as Indian citizens. Shah acknowledged that he had immensely benefited from the services of Indian Americans, including his own parents over the years.

“Free the Free Press”: Islam

Islam’s long keynote didn’t stop at berating the erosion of America’s global leadership, but called upon India to move forward and fill that gap. He also criticized the present Indian government for failing to take advantage of the opportunity. In his own pedantic words, Islam gave a discourse on what ails India and what Delhi needs to do.

Islam told a bemused audience that to become a “world-leading democracy,” India must “free its free press,” adding that Indian government must “take all of the steps and actions necessary to enable the press to speak truth to power and to contribute to the telling of stories that will improve the government and democracy.”

Atal Bihari Vajpayee Remembered

There was a minute of silence to pray for the departed soul of former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Puneet Ahluwalia, who served on President Trump’s Asian Advisory Committee, in his brief remarks highlighted the Indian leader’s contribution saying, “One person who cemented that Democracy was poetic leader loved by many and I admired him the most Late PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.” “He was one of the few who believed and governed on the principles of Raj Dharma,” added Ahluwalia.

Sunil Singh Gets Felicitations

Sunil Singh Smiling on dias
Pizza King Sunil Singh

Another highlight of the event was felicitation of the ever smiling supporter of community, Pizza King Sunil Singh (he owns a string of pizza outlets and is a doyen of restaurant business). Sunil Singh was recently honored with the post of the Chancellor of Malwanchal University.

NOTE: There were murmurs in the audience from Indian Americans against Islam’s remarks, and his speaking ill of Indian policies. IAT is gathering the reactions for another detailed report on those reactions.

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