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NRI takes a shot at US Congress

Bhakta, who first made his name on Trump's reality show The Apprentice, is now trying his hand at politics.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2006 15:49 IST

Down the dark hallway of a Best Western motel, past Room 335 and a supply closet, is the headquarters of Raj Peter Bhakta's congressional campaign.

Both the modest office and its location in a nondescript area off the freeway are a far cry from the bustling streets of Manhattan and the posh boardroom where Bhakta first made his name on Donald Trump's reality TV show "The Apprentice."

The bow-tied Bhakta, a first-generation American whose parents are Indian and Irish, was fired from the programme after a home renovation project went awry.
Now, two years later, he is trying his hand at politics, as a Republican challenging Democratic freshman lawmaker Allyson Schwartz for her seat in Congress.

Yet the cameras still follow him. A production crew is filming a documentary about his campaign. And at a fundraiser last month for Republican lawmakers Jim Gerlach and Mike Fitzpatrick, supporters sought out Bhakta as he milled about the ballroom so they could pose for pictures with him.

Bhakta, 30, hasn't been given much of a chance -- especially in a district that went for Democrats Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry 2004, and at a time when President George W Bush's approval ratings are low.

Schwartz, 57, was elected to Congress in 2004 with 56 per cent of the vote. Before that, she spent 14 years as a state senator representing parts of her current congressional district in suburban Philadelphia. She had about $1.3 million campaign cash on hand, according to her most recent campaign finance report, compared with about $79,000 for Bhakta.