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Indian Americans on a roll in congressional polls

world Updated: Aug 03, 2016 21:31 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Pramila Jaypal

Pramila Jaypal(Picture courtesy:

Indian American Pramila Jaypal, a candidate for US congress from Washington state, advanced to the general election on Tuesday, making 2016 an unprecedented year for the community.

There are five Indian Americans in the race for congress now, who have cleared their primaries: Jaypal, Ami Bera and Ro Khanna in California and Raja Krishnamoorthi in Illinois.

The fifth is Kamala Harris. She is running for US senate from California, and is poised to make history as the first Indian American ever elected to the upper chamber if she wins.

This is the highest number of Indian Americans ever to have cleared the primaries for US congress, and is a major landmark for a minority community in search of political clout.

The previous best was two, in 2014.

“Fantastic, incredible and exponential,” Shekar Narasimhan, a Democratic strategist of Indian descent, wrote in an email response when asked for comments. “And, they are all Democrats.”

That’s true. Indian Americans tend to lean Democratic — 80% according to a poll published earlier is year. But Republicans are actively in pursuit, progressing slowly but surely.

The only two Indian Americans ever elected governors in the US are both Republicans — Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who also ran for president; and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley.

Indian Americans, a 3-million strong community, have come a long way politically from 1957, when Dalip Singh Saund became the first one elected to the House of Representatives.

Now there are five, closer than ever to making history.

Jaypal, a Washington state senator, came to the US to study at the age of 16, and stayed on, becoming a leading advocate for civil and human rights focussed on women and immigrants.

Her bid got a major boost from Bernie Sanders, who she supported for the Democratic presidential ticket, last June when he asked his supporters to contribute to her campaign fund.

Jaypal advances to the general election in an electoral system unique to some US states such as Washington and California — first two candidates go through, irrespective of party affiliation.

Krishnamoorthi, a former Obama campaign staffer, set the ball rolling for the community, winning his primary in Illinois in March. Harris, Bera and Khanna cleared theirs in June.