Americans of South Asian descent taking centre stage in U.S. politics

Published: November 2, 2012

California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks to the audience at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 5, 2012 on the second day of the Democratic National Convention. Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

ARUN KUMAR
IANS

Washington – Whoever wins the tight White House race Nov 6, Indian-Americans are bound to play a key role in the new administration going by their growing clout in American politics.

At 20+, President Barack Obama’s administration already has the highest number of Indian-Americans working in high places and his Democratic party gave a pride of place to them at his nominating convention last August.

So did challenger Mitt Romney’s Republican Party, which boasts of having the only two Indian-American governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina. Both were at one time speculated among Romney’s vice presidential picks.

Rep. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal receives an update on the status of the pumping station at the 17th Street Canal during Hurricane Isaac on Aug. 28, 2012 in Metairie, Louisiana. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The likes of Rajiv “Raj” Shah, the highest ranking Indian-American in the Obama team as administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Preet Bharara, high-profile U.S. attorney for Manhattan, were not there at the Democratic Convention as they hold government jobs.

But Kamala Harris, 47, the first woman, the first African-American, and the first South Asian to be elected as attorney general of California, was one of the headliners.

The daughter of a Tamil-Indian immigrant mother and a Jamaican-American father, Harris was the second Indian-American to get a primetime speaking spot after Indian-American actor Kal Penn, best known for his Harold and Kumar movies.

Penn, a former White House staffer, had a starring role hosting primetime web coverage when Obama accepted the party’s nomination.

Rajiv “Raj” Shah, the highest ranking Indian-American on the Obama team, is the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Jindal, son of Indian immigrants from Punjab, governor since 2007, could not make it to the Republican convention after Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana’s southeast coast.

But Haley, born Nikki Nimrata Randhawa in a Sikh immigrant family, was given a key speaking spot. So was another son of Sikh immigrants, Ranjit “Rikky” Gill, 25, who is the lone Indian-American Republican running for Congress from California.

Besides Gill, four Democrats – Upendra Chivukula from New Jersey, Ami Bera from California, Manan Trivedi from Pennsylvania and Syed Taj from Michigan — are also making credible runs for the Congress and dozens more are either holding or seeking seats in state legislatures.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties are also out to woo the three million strong Indian-American community as their half a million votes could make a difference in the tight White House race.

Obama and Romney campaigns have placed full page advertisements in local Indian-American ethnic newspapers published from Washington, New York and the West Coast which have large concentrations of the community.

“Barack Obama is not just a president for some of us; he is fighting for all of us,” says a full page ad by the Obama campaign, which is also sending out flyers in Hindi.

“Ready to Go to Work. Vision for a better America. Vote Mitt Romney for President. Promising all my heart to restore strength to America. We will be strong again,” reads an advertisement by Northern California Asian Pacific Islanders Americans.





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