New York, Sept. 18: Indian Americans, who have hitherto been making hefty campaign donations and influencing American politics in other similar ways, have taken a big step forward by nominating one of their own to contest the November mid-term congressional poll.
Mumbai-born Ayesha F. Nariman, a Parsi who has lived in America for over 28 years, has been chosen by the Democratic Party as its candidate for the House of Representatives from the 26th district of New York state. She will try to wrest the seat from the incumbent, Republican Thomas Reynolds.
Nariman will not be the first Indian-American to contest for the Congress. In 1956, Dilip Singh Saund made a successful bid for the House of Representatives.
But this year’s Democratic challenger for the New York state seat has many firsts. She is the first South Asian woman to fight for national congressional office and the first Parsi to do so. Nariman, a resident of Williamsville, near Buffalo, is a financial analyst by profession, now employed by the American Express in its financial division.
She holds an MBA from the University of Buffalo, specialising in financial institutions and health care — areas which are now highly controversial in the US.
She is also an on-line columnist: her column in an on-line newspaper for nearly two years has helped popularise her views among constituents.
In her campaign plank, Nariman said that if elected she would fight for making social security and medicare trust funds secure to prevent their misuse by politicians. She would also campaign for an overhaul of medicare and for greater corporate responsibility.
These issues are now high in voters’ priorities, following Enron and other similar scandals and what many view as the Bush administration’s financial profligacy.
She has described herself in campaign documents as a “fiscally conservative and socially moderate Democrat”. Her priority would be to work for a balanced budget of the Clinton era.
The Buffalo News, her area’s local newspaper, described Nariman as a last-minute choice by the Democrats.
A consideration may have been that she is Indian-American: the seat has been recently redrawn and has a high percentage of Asians and Arabs.
This could be a challenge to Nariman. Several alleged terrorists with links to al Qaeda were last week arrested in Buffalo and could influence opinion against an Asian. On the other hand, it could also lead to a consolidation of minority votes in her favour.
The local newspaper said Republicans are leaving nothing to chance. They have already filed objections to her nomination papers.
Campaigning for their mother will be Nariman's two sons, Neville Patel, 27, and Cyrus Patel, 25, both university students.
Reflecting her last-minute entry into the poll fray is the disadvantage that her web site is yet to go up in contrast to the well-oiled poll machine of her Republican opponent and incumbent Congressman.