Indian men in US politics
They’re making a serious impression in the American political landscape
Rohit (Ro) Khanna, 38
An intellectual property lawyer (Yale graduate) and Stanford professor, Khanna is challenging the status quo in California’s 17th district by running against fellow Democrat Mike Honda, who’s campaigning for his eighth term in office.
He’s the tech club favourite: His constituency is headquarters for tech majors Apple, Cisco and Intel, and he’s got support from Marissa Mayer, president and CEO, Yahoo; Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook; Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive and chairman, Facebook; and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Google.
Team Obama all the way: Khanna was even deputy assistant secretary at the US Department of Commerce in 2009, so it’s no surprise that his own campaign is run by three of Obama’s key fundraisers.
His buzzwords are education, environment, economy: In fact, he proposes to increase the allocation of funds towards public schools to up the standard. Also, he believes, “immigration reform and economic growth go hand in hand,” so he intends to make the process of acquiring citizenship and work permits a whole lot easier.
The legacy: His grandfather was part of the Indian freedom struggle – his stories inspired him to do what he’s doing today.
Ajit Varadaraj Pai, 41
Pai has a BA from Harvard University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago, and is currently the Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission – he was nominated by Obama to the post.
He’s proud of his roots: He’s the first Indian-American appointed to the post but it “didn’t even occur” to him. Though he’s kinda proud of it. “My parents came to the US with very little other than the ambition to work very hard and a medical school education. Every day when I come to this job and many of the jobs I have had in my career, I try to think about: what can I do to make them proud and be worthy of the sacrifice that they made? It is very gratifying.”
He doesn’t stand for net neutrality: In fact, he’d rather not fix what ain’t broken, and mess with the internet at all. Net neutrality (or the “fast lane” approach) would allow broadband service providers to charge websites for faster connectivity. (If you’re not up to speed, catch British comedian John Oliver’s scathing criticism of the rule.
He’s just your average Indian-American: He was playing the violin by age 5 and acing spelling bees by fourth grade.
Raj Mukherji, 30
The former Deputy Mayor of New Jersey is now an Assemblyman, representing Hudson County. In the past he’s served as the Sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve, and Adjunct Professor of Political Science at New Jersey City University. Not half bad for a 30-year-old.
He’s done military service: He was 17 when he sold his start-up, an Internet consulting and software development company, to join the Marine Corps – significant, because this was only weeks after 9/11.
He calls himself a “bleeding heart liberal”: He tries to balance the aspirations of the working class with the needs of business. “New Jersey has a lot of built-in assets: proximity to major metropolitan areas like New York and Philadelphia, a highly-educated work force, a good transportation structure and fine institutions of higher learning” – all of which Mukherji says, make it lucrative for business.
He’s against the death penalty: Instead, Mukherji proposes life imprisonment without parole, and he’s also for marriage equality.