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Five Indian-Americans still in race for US Cong polls

August 16, 2012 14:00 IST

With the November Congressional polls entering the crucial last 90 days, five Indian-origin candidates, including 25-year-old "young gun" Ranjit 'Rikky' Gill, and a Hindu-American woman remain in the race for the US House of Representatives.

The primaries phase of the Congressional elections has kicked out four Indian-Americans from the race. It also resulted in the shocking defeat of Congressman Hansen Clare of Bangladeshi origin.

One Nepali-origin candidate could also not pursue his political ambition beyond the primary elections.

Five Indian-Americans remaining in the contest and giving a tough fight to their opponents in their respective Congressional districts are Upendra Chivukula from New Jersey; Ami Bera and Ranjit 'Rikky' Gill both from California; Manan Trivedi from Pennsylvania; and Syed Taj from Michigan.

Of them, only Gill is from the Republican Party while the rest four represent the Democrats.

Interestingly Bera, Trivedi and Taj are doctors, while Chivukula is currently Deputy Speaker of New Jersey assembly.

25-year-old Gill, the youngest of all and unmarried, has attracted national attention and endorsements from top Republican leadership.

The victory of Tulsi Gabbard, a Hindu-American, in the November elections is said to be taken for granted given that er Congressional seat is a strong bastion for the Democrats.

As such, Hindu-Americans have already started the elaborations.

So far only two Indian-Americans have been elected to the US Congress.

Dalip Singh Saund was the first Indian-American elected to the House of Representatives in 1950s, while Bobby Jindal, now the Louisiana Governor, was the second one.

However, Indian-Americans closely following the campaign hope that there would be an addition to this exclusive club; given that some of them are in dead heat with their opponents, according to latest polls; while almost all of them surprised their opponents by raising substantial amount of money.

According to recent opinion polls, Gill is in a "dead heat" with his Democratic opponent and incumbent Jerry McNerney from California's 9th Congressional District.

Running for the second consecutive time, Trivedi is fast closing the gap with his incumbent Republican opponent Congressman Jim Geralch.

Bera too is being considered by pollsters' neck-and-neck with his opponent Dan Lungren.

Not surprising, for election observers, is the pace at which these candidates have been raising funds, given that Indian-Americans have the highest per capita income among various ethnic groups here.

In just two months -- May and June, Chivukula raised $400,000 against just $150,000 by his rival, Congressman Leonard Lance.

While Lance is said to be a strong candidate, Chivukula is fast closing the gap.

Bera, whose parents migrated to the US from India over 50 years ago, has had enormous success in fundraising. He has outraised Lungren for 11 consecutive quarters.

He raised nearly $500,000 in April, May and June.

However, topping the list of fund raisers is Ricky Gill, who by late June had raised $1.18 million.

The National Republican Congress Committee has awarded him the party's "Young Gun" designation and he has been endorsed by top party leadership, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; New Jersey Governor Chris Christi; and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

After winning the Democratic primary on August 7, Taj exuded confidence that he can win the November 6 elections from Michigan's 11th Congressional District, which is considered to be a Republican stronghold.

As the community is coming out in support of these five candidates, disappointing for them has been the defeat of other Indian-Americans during the primaries.

Raja Krishnamoorthi lost badly in the Democratic Party primaries from Illinois' 8th Congressional District.

K P George, another Democratic party leader, lost a closely contested primary from the 22nd Congressional District in Texas by just 106 votes.

Vipin Verma lost very badly from Congressional District 6 in Florida, while Ron Bhalla too was defeated in Republican primary from third Congressional District in Tennessee.

Darshan Rauniyar of Nepali-origin lost the Democratic Party primary from the first Congressional District of the Washington State.

But the most surprising of all the defeats was that of incumbent Congressman Hansen Crake, the first US lawmaker of Bangladeshi descent.

He lost the Democratic Party primary from Detroit, as a result of which he would cease to be a member of the House of Representative next year.

Clarke lost to Gary Peters 29 to 39 per cent in the Democratic Party primary held for the newly drawn Greater Detroit area 14th District on Tuesday.

Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
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