So like, whatÂ’s up with South Carolina? Not widely recognized (at least by this blogger) as being a bastion of minority politics, all of a sudden South Carolina is the place to be if you are South Asian and have your eyes on the prize. Earlier this year, you may recall that Nikki Randhawa-Haley, 32, won the Republican Primary in South CarolinaÂ’s House District 87 and was to run unopposed in the November election. Until the middle of last month she was guaranteed a victory. Despite the fact that she now has a Democrat petition candidate running against her, she will most likely have an easy victory. That however is not where the sudden embrace by South Carolina for its brown sons and daughters ends.Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina’s 2nd District introduced bill two weeks ago, H.R.753, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that a portrait of Dilip Singh Saund should be displayed in an appropriate place in the United States Capitol or in a House Office Building.” What?!? A picture of a brown guy inside OUR U.S. Capitol? What’s the angle? Call me a shameless a cynic, but I had to try and figure out if there was some sort of ploy or conspiracy behind it all.
I asked myself, “Is Rep. Wilson doing this out of the goodness of his own heart?” Well it turns out that if you examine his legislative record you will note that he has previously sponsored a bill, H.CON.RES.15, “Commending India on its celebration of Republic Day.” You will further note another bill he sponsored, H.R.335 Private Bill, “For the relief of Jaya Gulab Tolani and Hitesh Gulab Tolani.” What was this second one regarding?
“Jaya’s husband, Gulab Tolani, died in 1995 before he and his family could have their application for permanent U.S. residency addressed, and now Jaya and her son Hitesh face deportation proceedings. JayaÂ’s second son, Ravi, was born in the United States and therefore is an American citizen and is not in danger of being deported.”
At a time when the Feds are deporting brown people left and right, this guy was working to keep them in? Is there more to Joe Wilson? I began to understand more once I read an interview with a Wilson staffer named Sandeep “Dino” Teppara. According to the interviewer Vasantha Arora from News-India Times, “Dino Teppara is known as the ‘the twenty-four hours seven days a week’ guy on Capitol Hill. Since 2001, he has been the attorney/senior legislative assistant to Rep. Joe Wilson.” Aha! Wilson has an influential South Asian on his staff that is advising him of issues he may otherwise neglect. ThatÂ’s not altogether true however. Quoting from the article,
“…as a real estate attorney, Joe Wilson has worked for 30 years with our community performing hotel and motel closings. He also performed legal work for many community members who branched out in other areas of small business ownership, including restaurants, gas stations, and convenience stores. He did all the legal work pro bono to establish the first Hindu temple in the state of South Carolina. He was also the first S.C. state senator to hire an Indian American as an intern and now is one of the first Republican Congressmen to hire a permanent Indian-American staffer, Dino told News India-Times in an interview.”
So in the end, my cynicism temporarily cast aside, I am wondering two things. Is the Democratic party taking the South Asian vote for granted? Also should we keep an eye on Dino Teppara to be the next star to come out of brown friendly South Carolina?
Rep. Joe Wilson did not help Hitesh and his mother out of the goodness of his heart. He was pressured into it by thousands of South Carolinians who wrote on Hitesh’s behalf. If you check the congressional record, he didn’t introduce the bill until much later than the Senate bill was introduced.
Believe it or not, it was the people of South Carolina who rallied behind Hitesh. His College, High School, School District, etc. Sen. Hollings (D-SC) and late Sen. Thurmond (R-SC) were the ones to help Hitesh first after the story hit the paper. Joe Wilson only did it to save face!
A South Carolinian