By Parveen Chopra
Fellow, CUNY J-School’s Center for
Community Media’s State Election Reporting
Founding Editor ‐ The South Asian Times
Fall seven times, stand up eight. True believers in this Japanese proverb, many South Asians who venture out to seek public office don’t quit after losing. Quite a few are sitting members of US House, state and local legislative bodies. We sought comments on the issue from a few people – one who is running for election this November 8, two who had run in the past, and one who supports South Asian candidates whether Republican or Democrat.
‘We South Asians want to play our role in the mainstream of politics’
- Sanjeev Jindal
Democratic Candidate for state Assembly – District 19
I am working hard to win the election for New York State Assembly as a Democrat. There is a lot going on right now. People are upset as our fundamental rights are on stake. After Roe v Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, women are very upset, including the women in my family.
My Assembly District is in the middle of Nassau County, extending from Floral Park to Williston Park (where I live), and Roslyn. Asians are about 14.5 % and together with Hispanics, we constitute about 19% in the district. In earlier elections we did not have a candidate of our own to support. This time our people are going to come out in large numbers. Of course, we who contest and win elections need to represent all communities, and work for all sections of society in our district and the state as a whole.
In the Democratic primary election last year for NYC Council District 23 in Queens, there were four South Asians in the race including me. We were criticized for splitting the vote. But I believe too many of us on the ballot is not a bad thing. People in our community want to be in the mainstream of politics and that will benefit all Asians. We are the oldest civilization in the world, and we have unique cultural values and sentiments. So, it is not just having a seat at the table, but also our emotions, our values.
Becoming an important part of the system is not going to be a one-time job. I lost last year but I learned a lot. It is all part of the journey. I have had firsthand experience of the pains and struggles faced by the common man and I have emerged from them to realize my American Dream. Now I want to give back, to empower others to achieve success.
Ultimately, what makes a difference when it comes to succeeding in elections and public affairs is not the aim to be something, but to do something. There must be courage and a burning desire to serve the people.
Sanjeev Jindal is a business owner and lives with his family in Williston Park, NY.
‘I will definitely run again!’
- -Reema Rasool
Ran in the Democratic primary for US Congress
I don’t feel like we lost! I know that sounds like a cliche, but we ran a great campaign with a positive message. And yes, I will definitely run again albeit not sure for what office.
We all know how Abraham Lincoln lost many elections before he became one of our most influential presidents.
Significantly, I became the first Muslim woman ever on the ballot for US Congress in our state. I am proud of what we achieved, and I am so proud to be running at the same time as Suraj Patel. I also spoke with Assemblywoman Jennifer Rajkumar and got some smart advice.
You only lose if you give up. I’m never going to stop working for everyday Americans. I am not a politician and I think what we need are people in public life who really care and want to make a difference no matter how hard it gets.
We desperately need representation for our communities on all levels. One of the best parts of my campaign has been meeting so many young people of color who see themselves running for office in the future and being able to encourage them and offer my advice and counsel. In the next decade we will see an exponential rise in South Asian candidates and representatives.
‘We need unity among ourselves’
- Koshy Thomas
Ran for New York City Council last year
Yes, we do need better representation in legislative bodies. We are hardworking people and the highest tax paying community in America, yet not getting our fair share when it comes to public policies.
I ran for NYC Council last year, but 3 other South Asians in the primary split the vote. I have lived in Bellerose-Floral Park area of Queens for 26 years and have done more for the constituents than any other candidate. Some of them didn’t even live in the district. So, unity is very important to get our people elected. Prospective candidates should talk to each other before entering the fray. I will try again to run for office.
‘To run for office, you must have a great desire to serve the community’
- Vimal K. Goyal
President, India Day Parade of Long Island 2022
I am very excited that so many Indian Americans are running in elections and hope to see more and more elected officials from the Indian subcontinent. What I tell whoever wants to run is, if you lose, run again. Because that is how you learn the ropes of contesting an election. We can run at local, state, or federal level. After all, the constituency is always local where you live unless you are running for governor or President.
The aspiring candidates need not think that being a Muslim or Hindu they will have tough time getting votes. But yes, keep religion out of your appearance, speeches, and endorsements. In America, we have separation of state and religion. Any emphasis on religion is bound to turn mainstream voters off. A candidate should be open to visiting churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques and show his or her support for all.
I always tell the candidates that they need to address what the voters care about. So, it becomes imperative to know what is on their mind, what will make a difference in their lives and not to push your own agenda down their throats.
You need to speak well in public even with an accent as long as you can speak clearly, slowly and get your message across. Show empathy for people who are less fortunate. Find out who your voters are and tailor your message accordingly. Most of the voters are middle class unless you want to represent a very wealthy or very poor constituencies.
I may run for elected office as I have been watching others run. It’s a great opportunity to serve the community. To run for office, a person must have a great desire to serve. In any case, contesting elections comes with risks as well. Your life is not as private as you would like it to be. I still encourage more and more people to run because public office needs people with diverse educational and cultural backgrounds. There is no one profession perfect for public office even though it has been considered that a legal background helps as most of the responsibilities of public office revolve around laws and legislations.