From Kamala Harris to Krishna Bansal, Indian-American faces from both parties woo community

There are 1.9 million Indian-American voters eligible to exercise their franchise in the 3 November polls, according to a Carnegie Endowment report

Around 1.9 million Indian-American voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the 3 November polls, according to a Carnegie Endowment report.

While Indian-Americans comprise just nearly one percent of total voters, their economic might is increasingly reflecting in their political donations, pegged to the tune of over $3 million for the 2020 presidential campaigns, according to Los Angeles Times.

Recognising the growing influence of Indian-Americans, the Democrats and Republicans have deployed some familiar faces to woo the community:

Kamala Harris: Democratic Party

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made history in August by picking Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate, the first Black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket.

Harris, 55, was born in Oakland to a Jamaican father and Indian mother.

She won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney. In the role, she created a reentry program for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.

She was elected as California’s attorney general in 2010, and was the first woman and Black person to hold the job. She focused on multiple issues including the foreclosure crisis. She declined to defend the state’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, which was later overturned by the US Supreme Court.

As her national profile grew, Harris built a reputation around her work as a prosecutor. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings.

In one memorable moment last year, Harris tripped up Attorney-General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain individuals.

Nikki Haley: Republican Party

At the Republican National Convention (RNC) ahead of the US elections in August, top Indian-American Republican politician Nikki Haley narrated her story to the American voters, urging them to strongly reject the Democratic Party’s “fashionable” statement that “America is racist”.

The 48-year-old former US ambassador to the United Nations was the only speaker of Indian descent to be listed at the RNC, which formally re-nominated US President Donald Trump as the party candidate for the 3 November presidential elections.

Born as Nimrata Randhawa in South Carolina, she is the daughter of Ajit Singh Randhawa and Raj Kaur Randhawa, who emigrated from Amritsar in Punjab.

Medha Raj: Democratic Party

Medha Raj was appointed as Biden’s digital chief when he was the presumptive nominee.

She has been given a significant role to play in his election campaign, which, due to the coronavirus pandemic, has been conducted almost entirely virtually.

Raj is managing all the fronts of the digital department to ensure maximum impact among the audience. Raj previously worked for Pete Buttigieg’s campaign. A graduate in international politics from Georgetown University, Raj has earned her MBA from Stanford University.

Krishna Bansal: Republican Party

Entrepreneur Krishna Bansal, a Republican, hails from the Chicago metropolitan area. His policies comprised free enterprise, fiscal discipline, and foreign affairs. Bansal ran as a Republican for the 11th Congressional District of Illinois from the Republican Party but lost the primary in March to Rick Lab.

Amerish Babulal: Democratic Party

Amerish Babulal, also known as Ami Bera, is a Democrat. He has been the Representative for California’s 7th Congressional District since 2013.  Representing Sacramento, he is currently also on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation.

Babulal is vice-chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and a leadership member for the New Democrat Coalition.

Sara Gideon: Democratic Party

Sara Gideon’s father, Vasant, hails from India and her mother is a second-generation Armenian-American from Rhode Island. Gideon, a Speaker of the Maine Assembly, is the Democratic candidate for the Maine Senate race.

Her father was a pediatrician and her mother was a psychiatrist and she credits her parents’ health care jobs and their commitment to community for her inspiration for public service, according to The Associated Press.

Gideon settled in Freeport, home to LL Bean, to raise her family with her husband, Benjamin Rogoff Gideon, a Maine native who took her last name.

Although Gideon doesn’t talk much about her Indian heritage, Americans of Indian descent are looking to her candidacy much the way they do that of vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris, whose mother was from India — with a sense of pride and excitement.

Manga Anantatmula: Republican Party

Manga Anantatmula, an Indian-American with roots in Andhra Pradesh, is running for the 11th Congressional district of Virginia against six-term incumbent Gerry Connolly. If she wins, she will join five other Indian-Americans in the US Congress and will be the only Republican Indian-American, a report in The Print said.

She did her early schooling in Chennai and then graduated from Agra University. She immigrated to the US about 30 years ago, along with her husband and son, and went on to work as a federal government contractor in defence acquisitions programme management.

She moved away from the Democratic party and joined the Republicans in 2016 after the presidential elections. This is the first time Anantatmula is running for office.

She first gained prominence in the district after speaking out against alleged discrimination in the admission of Asians in Ivy League schools. She had also backed the Narendra Modi government’s decision to scrap Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir in August last year and criticised Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s views on the issue.

Pramila Jayapal: Democratic Party

Pramila Jayapal made history in 2016 by becoming the first Indian-American woman to be elected to the US House of Representatives.

Jayapal is now serving her second term from Washington’s 7th Congressional District, which includes Seattle and suburban areas of King County.

Born in Chennai, Jayapal, the Democrat from Washington DC, also created history in 2019 by becoming the first South Asian American woman to preside over the House of Representatives (albeit temporarily).

She grew up in India, Indonesia, and Singapore and reached the US by herself at the age of 16 to attend college at Georgetown University. She received her MBA from Northwestern University, worked in a number of industries in both the public and private sector, and published her first book in 2000, ‘Pilgrimage to India: A Woman Revisits Her Homeland’.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar refused to meet Jayapal on his visit to Washington DC in December last year over a resolution passed by her in the US Congress “urging the Republic of India to end the restrictions on communications and mass detentions in Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents”.

Ro Khanna: Democratic Party

Ro Khanna, a Democrat,  was elected to the 115th Congress in January 2017.

Born in Philadephia Country, the young two-term Silicon Valley Congressman has become one of the go-to people on foreign policy in Congress.

Khanna was one of the 11 sponsors of a bill condemning the Pulwama terror attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed in Jammu and Kashmir in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

Khanna has advocated for NATO equivalent status for India in bilateral defence ties.

Raja Krishnamoorthi: Democratic Party

Raja Krishnamoorthi, a two-term Democratic Congressman from Illinois, was born in Delhi.

Krishnamoorthi, who is seeking his third-consecutive election to the House of Representatives from Illinois, is the first and only Indian-American lawmaker in the powerful House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

He serves on the Oversight Committee, for which he is also the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.

Krishnamoorthi previously served as the president of small businesses focused on research and development in the renewable energy and national security industries.

He also served as the founding Special Assistant Attorney General in Illinois’ anti-corruption unit.

Sabrina Singh: Democratic Party

Recently appointed Press Secretary to Kamala Harris, she is the first Indian-American to be appointed to the position.

But this isn’t her first rodeo.

She has previously worked as the press secretary for former Democratic presidential Cory Booker.

She was also a spokesperson for Michel Bloomberg’s presidential campaign and the regional communications director for Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Sanjeev Joshipura: Democratic Party

He is the director of Indians for Biden National Council, an organisation under the South Asians for Biden campaign that reaches out to Indian-Americans of different faiths.

Joshipura, executive director of Indiaspora, a not-for-profit organisation, has been engaged in public policy, and global government relations since 2008.

He has worked as a staff member on Capitol Hill, advising Congressmen and Senators on economics and international affairs.

Manasvi Magai: Republican Party

Manasvi Magai, a former Miss India, is the vice-chair of the Republican Hindu Coalition that advocates the interest of the 4.4 million Hindu-Americans. She is the vice-president and ambassador of the AVG group of companies, headquartered in Chicago.

Harmeet Kaur Dhillon: Republican Party

Dhillon became a member of the Republican party in 2013 and is now co-chair of Women for Trump. She has courted criticism from fellow members for her contribution to Harris’ political campaign when she was running for the San Francisco district attorney’s office.

With inputs from agencies

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