Dr Bharat Barai
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As in 2023
Born in Mumbai in 1948, and raised in Baroda, Barai graduated from Baroda Medical College in Gujarat before migrating to the United States in the 1970s. He earned three MDs while in the US — in medicine, medical oncology, and hematology.
Confirming that Barai was one of the key persons behind Modi’s diaspora event, a BJP leader who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Barai is a prominent Indian-American and a bipartisan figure. Even though the UPA government was in power in 2008, Barai lobbied with the US government for the India-US nuclear deal.” New Jersey-based Rajeev Bhambri, CEO of New India Abroad, a weekly newspaper published from New York, said, “Barai is a well-known Chicago-based physician. When he first organised Modi’s 2014 interaction with the diaspora in New York, people wondered how someone from Chicago would organise something of that scale. But he managed it, and has been a trusted person ever since.”
According to the US government’s campaign finance data, Barai has contributed to a range of Republican and Democrat party committees and candidates. Barai’s heftiest contributions, running into thousands of dollars, have been to the Democrats. Congress campaigns of Democrats Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard have received donations from Barai. He has also contributed to several political action committees, including Americans4Hindus.
Barai is well-known for his Hindu American networks. Chairman of the US India Friendship Council “founded by second-generation Hindu Americans born and raised in the United States”, Barai helped organise the World Hindu Congress, 2018, in Chicago and is part of the advisory team of the Hindu University of America. He was also facilitated by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-America in 2022. Asked about his affiliations with the BJP and VHP, Barai said: “I am not a formal member and do not hold official positions with BJP or the VHP. I don’t want to say I have nothing to do with them. I am a Hindu and have lots of friends in OFBJP (Overseas Friends of BJP-USA) and VHP.” When Barai turned 75 in May last year, he received a personal message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “My own association with Bharat bhai goes back decades, when I was an ordinary karyakarta,” Modi said in his message.
In 2017, Barai was a recipient of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest civilian award given to overseas Indians and people of Indian origin. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Ellis Island Medal of Honor that recognises contributions of immigrants to the United States.
Barai has been the master of ceremonies at several of Modi’s interactions with the diaspora — from the September 2014 reception held at Madison Square Garden in New York to biennial ‘Gujarat day’ celebrations in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013, during which Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, interacted with NRIs of 20 American cities via video-conferencing.
But it was New York’s Madison Square Garden reception in September 2014 which pole-vaulted Barai to the spotlight. The big-ticket event, which Barai is credited with organising, saw about 20,000 people from the Indian diaspora who gathered to see Modi during his first visit to the US as Prime Minister.
Though the Washington DC event was smaller in scale compared to the New York reception, Barai, who was assisted by a team of 300 volunteers and a 26-member organising committee, wasn’t any less occupied. “The last three weeks (before the event) were really hectic. I was awake until 1:30 am with my team to fine-tune last-minute preparations in the run-up to the event,” he told The Indian Express.
“About two-and-a-half weeks before the event, we sent registration links to 26 members of our organising committee — these are individuals who helped organise the Madison Square Garden event and organisers of unity marches. They forwarded it within their networks and in three-four days, registrations were full,” said Barai.
Bharat Barai, 75, a Chicago-based oncologist was keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings who had played a key role in organising the event on June 23 at the amphitheatre of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.