Indian Americans are significant contributors to political campaigns, but they don’t vote.” It is a common lament and one that has spurred the formation of several political organizations and forums aimed at our affluent community. There is the Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE), the Bay Area Satyagrah Political Action Committee (BASPAC) and several others whose goals are to increase the influence and participation of Indian Americans in the political process.
What distinguishes the newly formed Bay Area Indian American Democratic Club (BAIADC) from these organizations is its specific outreach to Indian Americans on behalf of the California Democratic Council, an umbrella organization of grassroots Democratic clubs. And in a state with a Democratic supermajority, that makes eminent sense.
“When I was running for a delegate position in the California 28th Assembly District, several of my friends, who supported my candidacy and worked on my campaign, could not vote for me,” says Rishi Kumar, founder of the BAIADC. This was because they were either unregistered or registered as independents, which disqualified them from voting for Democratic delegates.
California’s new open primary process makes it particularly easy for voters to stay independent. The Presidential primaries for the Democratic Party are also open to “decline to state” voters, so a significant number of Indian Americans prefer to sit on the fence, proud of their independent status.
But Kumar, who now represents the 28th Assembly District as a delegate and a member of the executive board, makes an impassioned plea to Indian Americans to pick a side. “If you have the ability to vote for a delegate, you have a voice,” he says. Indeed, while Presidential primaries and elections have the most visibility and popularity, local elections often impact our daily lives in much more significant ways, and delegates have a big role to play in determining who will run for offfice. Since delegates represent their constituency in policy making meetings of the Democratic Party, having a say in choosing the local delegate is a much more effective way of getting community-specific issues heard at these powwows. Delegates endorse not only candidates, but also resolutions and ballot measures, so influencing the choice of delegates is a pretty powerful tool in determining the future of state, the district, and the community.
“Our goal at BAIADC is an uptick in the number of registered Democrats in the Indian American community,” adds Kumar. He points out the irony that many of his friends who worked on President Obama’s campaign and hold the values of the Democratic Party are not actually registered as Democrats. “When candidates do precinct walks, they often skip Indian American homes because they know it is a wasted effort. Only by registering as Democrats can we highlight our issues in a state that is so heavily Democratic.”
Kumar wants to the BAIADC to be a unifying force for Indian American Democrats in the Bay Area. He envisions a pan-Bay Area organization and has brought together prominent Indian Americans in the political field to support the fledgling organization. The BAIADC has the support of Ash Kalra (San Jose City Council), Anu Natarajan (Fremont City Council), Yogi Chugh and Mohammad Nadeem.
As part of the outreach efforts, the BAIADC is holding a membership event on April 28 in Milpitas. On the agenda is an update from the Democratic Convention on April 2nd, where Kumar, Kalra, and others from the club will attend as part of the Indian American caucus.
Indian Americans from the following counties are welcome to attend the meeting on April 28th: Santa Clara, Alameda, Marin, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Solano, and Napa. “We are also looking to loop in leaders from these other counties, to join us in becoming a force working for the common good of our local communities, and also to recruit members who can work with the Democratic party towards the well-being of our communities,” says Kumar.
April 28, 12:30-2 p.m. Membership Meeting. Swagat Restaurant, 68 S Abel St, Milpitas. (408) 262-1128. More information on BAIADC can be found at http://baiadc.org. Join their Google groups at http://groups.google.com/group/baiadc, and like their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BAIADC.