Desis for Texas y’all

In an effort to help South Asian politicians seek elected office, and help educate South Asian citizens at a local level in Texas, a group headed by Dheeraj Chand has started the political action committee, Desis for Texas (DesiPAC).

We have four primary objectives:

1. Support the election of candidates who have demonstrated support on issues pertinent to S. Asians, such as immigration and civil rights.

2. Provide a community infrastructure to encourage and support S. Asians to run for elected office.

3. Ensure that every legal S. Asian voter is registered and able to vote in as many elections as possible.

4. Ensure that as many S. Asians are educated in the political process, informed on the issues and candidates and able to develop cogent perspectives. We will concentrate our efforts on elections in which we feel that our communities will be greatly impacted and those elections in which we can make a great impact.

At the national level we already have a U.S. IndiaPAC that has similar objectives. In my opinion however, they spend far too much time (or at least that’s the impression I am left with) battling the Pakistani American lobby over weapons sales on the Indian subcontinent. As an Indian American born here, India/Pakistan relations are at the bottom of the list of policies that matter to me. Where was IndiaPAC on the Modi issue?

USINPAC Chairman Sanjay Puri called the State Department’s decision to revoke the visa of Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, “a setback to the US – India relationship”. Mr. Puri added “Mr. Modi is a controversial figure in India and a number of cases against him are making their way through the Indian legal process. Until those cases reach a resolution, Mr. Modi is still a duly elected representative of a large Indian State and our Government should be showing deference to India’s democracy and rule of law.”

Wrong. As American citizens we should be showing deference to American ideals, or work diligently to better those ideals, first. I do not find myself obligated to show any kind of deference to India’s government. This was a cowardly and short-sighted statement that stabs at the heart of why I have never supported IndiaPAC. The organization clearly has divided loyalties. It is their perogative of course, but that leaves a vacuum as to where I should direct my support. A DesiPAC type organization could seek to finally join together the disparate brown populations by focusing on issues of common importance to us rather than the inconsequential ones that divide us. If it proves over time to be a success in Texas, then hopefully DesiPac will go national and over many years make IndiaPac irrelevant.

There is also another organization out there named South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT).

South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow is a national non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the full and equal participation by South Asians in American civic and political life. We accomplish this mission by:

-Providing an informed and unified voice on issues affecting South Asians that relate to equality and civil rights.

-Developing South Asian coalitions that transcend religious, ethnic or linguistic differences, to facilitate collective action and broader community change.

-Creating opportunities for leadership, service and volunteerism by South Asians in order to foster civic engagement.

There seems to be a good deal of synergy between the goals of SAALT and DesiPAC that may lead to a collaboration.

So what might be DesiPAC’s first objective? Since they are just getting started I’m not sure, but Jay Aiyer IS running for city council in Houston. The Hindustan Times reports:

Jay Aiyer, Dilip Nath and Thakar Singh Basati have never met but share a political philosophy — involvement in local politics. The three are only the latest examples of a growing trend of Indian Americans in the US getting involved in local politics to make a difference where it matters.

“I believe the Indian American community is now beginning to be quite visible at local political levels. The key for us is not to aim for the high federal offices straight away but work our way up. We must start locally,” Aiyer, a Houston, Texas based attorney, told IANS.

Aiyer said he has a simple reason to run for Houston City Council At-Large Position 2 — “I believe in this city.”

-Get involved with Desis for Texas
-Get involved with SAALT

12 thoughts on “Desis for Texas y’all

  1. Houston, huh? Sugarland is Tom DeLay’s district. I bet there are a lot of desi’s working at Johnson Space center. I would love to help a desi either defeat or help defeat DeLay in ’06. My main interest in politics is straight up American, and I’d love nothing more than to see DeLay eat some dirt, but helping a Desi take that seat would be the dhanya on the chaat.

  2. Saheli good point. I can think of at least one desi working at JSC that I think I can convince to run for DeLay’s seat someday. I don’t think it will happen in 2006 though. He’s still too powerful down there AND he has actually been very good for NASA.

  3. I Dheeraj and have known him for years; he’s a great guy so if you can, you should definitely cough up as much as you can to get some South Asian folks elected down there. It’s so great to see this kind of PAC develop because you’ll discover that it’s much more principled than political (probably because of DC’s roots). Especially when it comes to PACs in support of particular ethnicities, you’ll find that they are really politically biased. I trust that DesiPAC will revive a sense of integrity in some small way.

  4. Wow, that first post didn’t work at all. I was trying to say that Dheeraj is awesome, I’ve known him for years and I’m glad that this project has finally seen the light. Unlike other PACs that support particular ethnicities (yes, I’m mostly talking about BAMPAC) and are also mouthpieces for a particular party, DesiPAC will be much more principled than political (due in no small part to DC’s leadership). It will be great to see some South Asian candidates receive some extra support in their runs for office. If you can, you should drop some cash their way.

  5. Abhi, you wrote: He’s still too powerful down there AND he has actually been very good for NASA.

    See, here’s the thing. There’s no reason a Democratic representative wouldn’t be just as good for NASA in terms of pure porkability. Okay, he or she might lack in seniority at first. But seriously, whichever Democrat can take down Tom DeLay essentially takes down the Republican Congress. If not this term, than the next term. And then this person is a veritable Devata. A Maharaj or Maharani among the Representives. So NASA porkers need not worry on that front. Besides which, honestly, as long as Bush is in charge, I don’t think anyone needs to worry about Houston’s funding. The man is from Texas. By the time Bush leaves, this Devata of a DeLay Defeater will be able to come of age and represent with influence.

    And on a principles front they have a much bigger long term concern. The future of NASA, and especially human exploration of Mars, is increasingly tied with astrobiology. That’s right, astrobiology. What’s the basis of astrobiology, folks? EVOLUTION. Who hates evolution? TOM DELAY. He HATES evolution, and has done all kinds of grandstanding to try and stop schoools from teaching it. That alone should be enough to get the heavily science-dependant desi economy a bit riled up, IMHO.

    Which gets to your larger point. I’m actually deeply concerned about our relationship with Pakistan, but not just or even mostly out of a parochial loyalty to India. (I can’t claim to have none, but it’s a small concern.) I’m concerned about that relationship b/c of how it plays out in the wider world stage. Desi-Americans don’t have to bring their hometown disputes to the table to be politically involved in a desh-centric way. They can bring their expertise and awareness.

    But more than that, I think that Desi-Americans do have a very American agenda that’s not remotely Desi-centric, but principled and simply patriotic. What has made us so successful as a group? Hands down, education. We’re generally descended from a highly filtered set of immigrants, and we’re proof that a good education can get you far. So we should be fighting to spread that privilage around, and spread it at a high level. What else has made us so successful? That we generally came here after the Civil Rights movement. Despite the majority of us having a deeply unAbrahamic religion, and even the Abrahamic among us being from very different sects of Islam and Christianity than Americans were used to, we’ve generally had pretty extraordinairy freedom of religion and culture. But it helped that we mostly stuck to the coasts and urban centers. So we should fight to spread those rights around the country. (Yet another reason I’m not that down with DeLay.) Finally, just one more example, what’s one thing that America has that the Desh will never have again? HUGE SWATHES OF WILDERNESS. Face it, those days are gone for India and Pakistan. They don’t need to be gone for the United States. When other Indian-Americans say, jokingly, “Well, I always have the option of going back to India,” I can’t help but think. . no, I don’t really have the option of taking Half-Dome back to India. I’d like to make sure it stays at least okay. They’re just examples. I’ll shut up now. :-)

  6. I think one of the most important things for the the South Asian diaspora to be accepted as mainstream in the US or UK is to enter politics. Take for eg: Fiji and Guyana

    Fiji’s first ethnic Indian prime minister -Mahendra Chaudhry

    Son of indentured plantation workers – Cheddi Berret Jagan, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana aka father of the Guyanese Nation.

    We have many such examples of the old indentured Diaspora engaging in top level politics.

    However in the USA, the post 1965 immigrants seem to have a harder time entering politics.Reasons warrant another discussion so I’ll stop.

    Anyhow it is good to see efforts being made to encourge political awareness among South Asians.

    The White house is in your homeland, so take the front seat.

  7. Abhi, given that you previously lamented the absence of women bloggers, it’s surprising to see the glaring omission of Saheli Datta and Anjeli Taneja on the Sepia Mutiny blogroll. Considering that SM has emerged as the defacto desi blog, it’s imperative that you link to some awesome female bloggers out there. Show the sistahs some love ;-)

  8. Nitin, Anjali has been on my blog roll for quite some time now and we have traded many emails. I rarely make site modifcations because SM is too complicated for me. :) But you are right. I will add her. As far as Saheli, rest assured that I have been doing my homework and have a scouting report on her. Her name has come up in discussion at our North Dakota headquarters :) And lastly, I am all about showing my sistas some love. ;)

  9. Hey y’all,

    It’s so awesome to see that you guys here at Sepia Mutiny are writing about Desis For Texas! It’s completely awesome to intern here. Dheeraj is an awesome boss. He spends so much time teaching everyone how to do what they’re supposed to do, and then completely backs off and lets us do it. And he never gets mad if we mess up! My job is to track DFT writeups across the blogosphere, so here I am! ;)

    Anyway, I just wanted to expand on a couple of things.

    Dheeraj is meeting with someone from Jay Aiyar’s campaign tonight. We’ve known about him for quite a while, but we just haven’t gotten a chance to get together and talk til now. We’ve totally wanted to make Jay a big deal.

    We are also going to endorse and oppose legislation, too, in addition to our four objectives.

    We need a lot of help, y’all. Pull out your checkbooks and your visa cards!!

    Thanks for the writeup! You’ll probably get an official follow-up letter from us later. This was just an excited first response.


  10. have a scouting report on her.


    [Saheli quickly shoves skeletons back into closet]


    Keep up the good work, Deepali.:-)