US presidential race: Democrats rope in Indian Americans
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has named three Indian Americans to head its Indo-American Leadership Council, comprising professionals, entrepreneurs and activists of Indian descent, to mobilise the community for the 2008 US presidential elections.
Mahinder Tak of Maryland and Shekar Narasimhan of Virginia will serve as national co-chairs while Sunita Gupta Leeds of Washington DC will serve as advisory board chair through the 2008 election cycle, DNC chairman Howard Dean announced Friday.
"Each of them is firmly committed to advancing the shared ideals and values of the Democratic Party and the Indian-American community.
Each of them also understands the importance of encouraging and increasing the participation of the Indian-American community in our American democracy, and that we need the Indian American community not just at the table but on the ticket," he said.
"Under their leadership, the Indo-American Leadership Council will no doubt continue the great tradition begun by outgoing Chair Ramesh Kapur and have a tremendous impact on helping elect a Democratic President and Democrats up and down the ballot in 2008," Dean said.
Kapur, an entrepreneur from Boston who helped create the Indo-American Leadership Council at the DNC in 2004, is credited with raising millions for the national party and the Democratic presidential nominee that year.
The council works to recognise the loyalty, dedication and generous contributions of the Indian-American community to the Democratic Party, and to provide a platform for political engagement and a forum for the exchange of ideas for Indian-American Democrats, the announcement said.
Tak is a retired physician, formerly with the US Army Reserve, and has been a long-time Democratic supporter.
On the board of trustees for the National Museum for Women in the Arts, she is also one of the foremost collectors of Indian art and has lent pieces from her collection to the Freer and Sackler Galleries.
Tak and her husband are also supporters of micro credit and women's development in India and elsewhere.
Narasimhan is a banker and CEO of a public company in Virginia. An active Democrat for years, he became particularly involved in 2006 after the "Macaca incident" with his son SR Sidarth and helped mobilise the Indian-American community, both in Virginia and nationally.
Sidarth, a staffer with the Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb, was called "Macaca" - a type of monkey - by his Republican opponent Senator George Allen.
The perceived racial slur is widely believed to have contributed to Allen's defeat and in the process helped the Democrats gain a majority in the Senate.
Narasimhan is also actively involved with the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple, one of the largest Hindu temples in the US, and is the founding chair of the Campaign for Affordable Housing.
Sunita, with her husband Dan Leeds, has been involved in Democratic politics for years. A software developer by training, she is now deeply involved with progressive non-profit causes particularly focused on education, is on three advisory boards related to education.
She also co-chairs The Enfranchisement Foundation, which funds charities that act as catalysts in breaking the cycle of poverty and ignorance, and charities that specialise in women's issues.
As chair of the council's advisory board, Sunita will coordinate a network of Indian-American activists, community leaders, elected officials and celebrities to support the fundraising and outreach work of the council.