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Sleaze stench helps Indians in US race

Washington, Nov. 4: The stench of sleaze, corruption and illicit sex, which has sent President George W. Bush and his Republican Party running for cover in next Tuesday’s US mid-term elections, may see as many as 10 Indian Americans coasting to victory in many local polls across America.

Of the nearly one dozen ethnic Indian candidates fielded by Democrats for various posts, the story of Rano Singh, a novice to elected office, has caught America’s imagination nationwide.

Singh, who was born in India and graduated from Britain, entered politics as a reaction to the murder of her fellow American Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi in Arizona in a hate crime that followed terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

A community college teacher and wife of a technology professional, whose priority in life was to look after her three children until September 11, the murder of Sodhi — who was taken by a white man for a turbaned follower of Osama bin Laden — energised Rano Singh into joining the Arizona attorney general’s Hate Crimes Task Force.

She has since not looked back, becoming president of the Indian Association of Phoenix and chair of the Arizona chapter of the Indian American Chamber of Commerce.

Spotting potential in Rano Singh, Arizona’s Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, appointed her in 2002 to the Citizens Finance Review Commission.

She also served, among other posts, as an education panelist for the White House Commission for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Rano Singh is now in the fray for the job of state treasurer in Arizona, whose responsibility is to oversee the state’s investments.

The incumbent, a Republican, has agreed to resign his office before the end of his term under a plea bargain in a scandal that has raised the profile of the Indian American Democrat’s campaign. David Petersen will step down from office on November 30, one day before he is sentenced in court in that scandal.

A sure winner in Tuesday’s ballot is expected to be Kumar Barve, often described as the “dean” of Indian-American Democrats, the longest-serving ethnic Indian in any US state legislature.

First elected in 1990, Barve is majority leader in the Maryland state House of Representatives. Tuesday’s victory will be his ninth term in the House.

Also among certain winners are Satveer Chaudhury, 37, one of the youngest Indian origin persons to be elected to an American state legislature when he won a seat in the Minnesota state House of Representatives 10 years ago. Chaudhury moved to the state Senate in 2000, becoming the first Indian-American state Senator.

Another sure winner is Swati Dandekar, who is seeking her third term in the Iowa state House of Representatives.

Dandekar’s first election in 2002 became a cause celebre for Indians in the US after her Republican opponent posed the question to voters: “Will a person raised to function in the upper caste of India, the most repressive form of discrimination on the planet, be able to shed such repressionist views and fully and effectively represent the citizens” of Iowa' Dandekar won handsomely. In Ohio, Jay Goyal, 26, scion of a local business house, is seeking a seat in the state House of Representatives. In Kansas, Raj Goyle, 31, is fighting to unseat Republican member of the House of Representatives, Bonnie Huy.

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