‘Desi’ wave hits US: Record 5 Indian-Americans set to be elected to Congress

An unprecedented ‘desi’ wave hit the US general elections as a record number of five Indian- Americans were all set to be elected to the US Congress on Tuesday.
March of the desi brigade: It’s turning out to be quite an election for the community.(Illustrations by Mohit Suneja)
March of the desi brigade: It’s turning out to be quite an election for the community.(Illustrations by Mohit Suneja)
Updated on Nov 09, 2016 10:07 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByYashwant Raj, Washington

Indian-Americans have bagged four congressional seats so far in the 2016 elections, marking a new high for a minority that has pursed political power commensurate with its clout as the country’s richest ethnic group.

Among the winners was California’s attorney general Kamala Harris, who won her Senate race, also a first for the community, putting her among the next generation of Democrats that are expected to take over the party from Hillary Clinton.

The other three were Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jaypal, all elected to the House of Representatives, where the tally could still climb with Ami Bera, the sole Indian-American in the current House, leading in his re-election bid.

All five are Democrats, and three of them are from one state, California — Harris, Bera and Khanna, whose constituency, District No 17, is home to Silicon Valley. Krishnamoorthi won in Illinois and Jayapal in Washington.

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Shekar Narasimhan, a leading Clinton campaign fundraiser and strategist, called these wins “the silver lining in an otherwise rather dark cloud”, referring to Clinton losing to Republican Donald Trump in a stunning upset.

This is the first time Indian-Americans have won more than one seat in Congress, going back to the 1950s, when Dalip Singh Saund, a Democrat, became the first member of the community ever elected to the House. He served three terms.

Bobby Jindal, a Republican who became the second Indian-American to make it, was also the lone member of the chamber from his community. He served two terms before running for governor of Louisiana. He won two terms.

Bera, the third, was the only Indian-American in the last House. And there are now four, going on to five.

The community, which forms 1% of the American population with 3.4 million members, has long been the best educated, something they brought from India, and most prosperous, with a median household income of $103,000.

Their interest in politics remained confined to signing checks for politicians to buy clout locally, but graduated to running themselves, in growing numbers in recent years, but most of them didn’t make it past the primaries.

Year 2016 marked a watershed with a record number of them clearing the nominating contests: the five above, and Peter Jacob in New Jersey, also a Democrat, who hadn’t had much of a chance from the start.

But who would not welcome a score of 5 out of 6, and two of them women? Community leaders believe these results will pave the way for more people to explore a career in politics, starting off at all and any level they can.

While grieving the loss of the White House, Narasimhan, wrote in an email that the victory of Indian-Americans was an “opportunity for us to play a leadership role in promoting progressive policies for our community and nation”.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022