US - INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW

11 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JULY-SEPTEMBER 2018 As for Impact, Ahluwalia sees it as meant mainly for Democrats. "The good news is we (Republicans) are planning some- thing similar and robust," he said, an organization that would be launched in the "next few months." However, there were many Republican faces at the Impact Summit held in early June in Washington, D.C. According to Ahluwalia, there is a "large pool" of talent in the Republican National Committee, waiting to help and guide candi- dates, something he hopes to tap for Indian-American candidates. He details his goals on his LinkedIn profile as follows - "elect Republicans at every level of office; promote free market, limit- ed government, low tax & pro- business policies; and create greater opportunities for South Asians & minorities in the Party." Karthick Ramakrishnan, profes- sor at University of California, Riverside, and founder of AAPIData, says Indian-Americans as an immigrant group, show key differences compared to other groups. The traditional model among immigrant groups was to build political power at the local level - in cities and then move further. The Irish and the Italians did that, not so much the Greeks, Ramakrishnan notes -- Italians in Boston, parts of New York City; the Irish also in Boston, Chicago, New York. Chinese-Americans in San Francisco, and parts of Los Angeles, especially the eastern parts of LA. Indian-Americans are more spread out than even other Asian- American groups which tend to have heavy concentrations, like in California for instance. Where Indian Americans have a concen- tration, like in Silicon Valley, one sees the results -- with Ro Khanna and Ami Bera in Congress. "Indian-Americans are more spread out, tend to have higher incomes, higher education; and they also have greater civic engagement than other Asian groups," but Ramakrishnan observes, "Indian-American engagement is not as strong as the Jewish group for instance." A majority of Indian-Americans are still foreign born, he notes. NEW COHORT The Achilles heel of this minori- ty, is the lack of a common agen- da, he says, unlike the Jewish diaspora, for whom Israel is the point of reference. "All that said, we have a bumper crop in Congress, and more and more people running for office -- Why? - - because you have a much larger settled community which has lived here for decades; and you have a cohort of those born here," Ramakrishna contends, and that is a significant base to build on. "These two groups are driving the growth/engagement/infrastructure building," the difference now being the agenda - a focus on domestic rather than foreign policy toward India. Several examples of this new cohort of leaders can be seen in New Jersey's state and local elec- tions last year, which put several Indian-Americans, most born and brought up in the U.S., to office - Vin Gopal as the first State Senate, Ravi Bhalla and Mayor of Hoboken, and the appointment of Gurbir Grewal as the first Indian- American State Attorney General. There are also already those who have served many years and are getting out due to term limits, like Michigan State Rep. Sam Singh, first Indian-American to get there, serving for many years and now ending his career as Minority leader because of term limits. "9/11 triggered the rise in politi- cal engagement and changed the dynamic. It made a lot more peo- ple aware of how important it was to be involved in politics; that you could be a successful engineer or doctor and still be targeted," Ramakrishnan notes. Vin Gopal is a standing exam- ple of the type of Indian-American that the Indian-American PACs see so much potential in. Gopal grew up on a diet steeped in poli- tics that his parents cultivated at home, and he told this correspon- dent that it was a given that he would gravitate to politics whichever field he went into. So when he opened a small business in Hazlet Township, he was imme- diately drawn to the fight against giving breaks to big business, and no ordinary big business, but Walmart. His rise from president of the Hazlet Township Business Association to chair of the Monmouth County Democratic Party, and on to candidate for State Senate in a hitherto Republican district is a story con- firming that dictum - all politics is local. Another difference today Ramakrishnan notes, is that politi- cal lines began to be drawn more forcefully within this community. "9/11 spurred political action, par- ticularly of Democratic activists. Before that we had Indian- Americans giving to both parties." Ela Dutt | Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media

RkJQdWJsaXNoZXIy NTg0NTU=