We have talked extensively here about one particular South Asian American member of the Obama-Biden transitional team. But are there others? Facebook informed me earlier this week that Parag Mehta left his job as the Director of External Communications at the Democratic National Committee — the highest-ranking staff position held by a South Asian in the Democratic Party. Now we know why, he is the latest South Asian to join the Presidential Transition Team.
Parag Mehta, 31, has been named the deputy director of inter-governmental affairs and public liaison of the Obama-Biden transition team, charged with outreach to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other minority groups.
He said that besides outreaching to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, his mandate would also include reaching out “to lesbians, gays and bi-sexuals and also a couple of issue areas. So, I will be reaching out to these groups too besides Asian Pacific Americans.” But, Mehta explained that “the office is not just for minority groups. The office also includes small businesses, doctors, lawyers, rural farmers-so it’s a pretty large portfolio.”[IndiaDem]
The central Texan native was deputy political director for Howard Dean’s 2003 presidential bid, and directed the campaign’s ethnic outreach. Prior to joining the DNC, Mehta served as the deputy political director for America Votes. He holds a masters degree in public administration from Syracuse University and served in both the Clinton and Bush administrations as liaison to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.[NewAmericaMedia]
Mehta will be leading a conversation in a post-election webinar hosted by SAALT this Tuesday, November 25th at 1pm PST where people can ask him questions they have on the transition team. Working next door to Mehta in the transition team office is another desi face, Nick Rathod.
Nick Rathod, 33, has been appointed director to the Office of Inter-governmental Affairs. Rathod is the national outreach director of South Asians for Obama and one of its founding members. He also co-founded South Asian Americans Leading Together.[NewAmericaMedia]
Lawyer and former Clinton insider Preeta Bansal’s name has also been floating around the transition team.
Reports also suggest that the former solicitor general of New York, Preeta Bansal, currently a senior advisor on the Obama campaign, may be considered for the position of Solicitor General in the Department of Justice.[AsianWeek]
Other desi names that have been popping up in regards to the transition team are that of Arti Rai, Anjan Mukherjee, Rachana Bhowmik, Subhasri Ramanathan, Natasha Bilimoria and Puneet Talwar. Also rumored are Neera Tanden, Hrishi Karthikeyan, Dave Kumar, and Kris Kolluri.
Though considered just a “temp job”, this may be one of the most important temp jobs I’ve ever seen. What is remarkable to me is just how transparent and AAPI-accessible the transition team is, especially compared to every past presidential transition team. From the President-Elect’s Change Website, to broadly being able to track the transition team at Public Citizen’s Becoming 44, to having conference calls hosted by APIA Vote to explain the transition team process for the APIA community, I feel that I finally have the transparency I need to hold my elected official accountable.
As far as accessibility, I’m pretty confident in saying that there has never been this many desis involved in a Presidential Transition Team before, and I can say with certainty that this will only lead to an increased representation of South Asians in the White House. Not just any South Asians, but leaders that our community has looked to in the past to advocate for our community – people that we have as facebook friends, in our Gmail contacts, and most importantly, readers of Sepia Mutiny – are going to be in the White House. And there’s something just thrilling about that. Continue reading