Dramatic rise in number of Indian-Americans running for New York City Council

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As many as sixteen South Asian Americans including ten Indian-Americans are running in the regular elections for council members in the New York City Council, which represents 51 districts throughout the five boroughs.

The primary for the regular election is scheduled for June 22, 2021, followed by the general elections on Nov 2. The filing deadline for this election is March 25.

Indian-Americans Jaslin Kaur, Sanjeev Jindal, Harpreet Singh Toor and Mandeep Sahi are running to represent district 23; Suraj Jaswal, Shekar Krishnan and Rajesh Ranot for district 25; Amit Bagga for district 26; Japneet Singh for district 28; and Felicia Singh for district 32.

Bangladeshi-Americans Mohammad Majumder, Badrun Khan, Helal Sheikh, Shahana Hanif and Mamnum Haq are running to represent districts 18, 26, 32, 39 and 39 respectively. Pakistani-American Fatima Baryab is running to represent district 25.

Council members are elected every four years, except for two consecutive two-year terms every twenty years to allow for redistricting between the terms due to the national census.

Jaslin Kaur (D)

Jaslin Kaur. Photo: jaslinkaur.nyc

Born and raised in District 23, Kaur would be the first woman and person of color to represent her home if elected. Raised by a taxi driver and union grocery store worker, she was inspired to run for the council by the taxi medallion debt crisis.

The youngest candidate in the run for the district told DesiTalk NY, “I really hope I can bring change to my community and help them in this crisis. As an Indian-American and Sikh Punjabi, something that I believe in is serving our elders which comprise 20percent of the district population. I plan to bring increased home care and elderly services to our community.”

Kaur says her campaign is entirely grassroots, with over 200 volunteers and 20percent of the donor base from unemployed people. “We have refused all donations from private corporations.”

Kaur has attended public schools, supported local projects and helped her community. She believes she knows her people and her district well and can be an effective first South Asian representative for the district.

Sanjeev Jindal (D)

Sanjeev Jindal. Photo: sanjeevkjindal.com

Jindal immigrated from India to the U.S. in 2003. Despite having a degree in engineering from his native country, Jindal struggled to secure a professional job and performed several low-paying jobs to stay afloat. It took him ten years to gain financial freedom which is what Jindal aims to eradicate for immigrants and citizens alike.

Jindal’s campaign is to empower individuals and communities in order to create a better environment for small business, public safety, and our health care system.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in job losses for many, my goal is to help individuals overcome their hardships through successful self-employment,” he says in his campaign bio.

Harpreet Singh Toor (D)

Harpreet Singh Toor. Photo: H.S. Toor

Community leader and political activist Toor has pledged to work with City Council leadership to establish an effective, science-based strategy for battling the Covid pandemic.

“I will fight for strong solutions to the alarming budget shortfalls we are facing as a result of the pandemic, and make certain the people of District 23 receive their fair share of services and funding,” Toor said in a press release.

Toor is credited with building diverse coalitions among elected officials to push through  “several groundbreaking initiatives”  including passage of the New York Workplace Discrimination Law prohibiting New York employers from discriminating against employees due to their religious attire.

If one of these candidates win in District 23, he/she will replace Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik (D), who is not running for re-election.

Suraj Jaswal (D)

Suraj Jaswal. Photo: suraj25.com

Jaswal is the Director of Operations at an environmental consulting and testing firm. He migrated from India to the U.S. to do a summer study program in Parapsychology, and arrived in Elmhurst, New York in 1998. He earned his MBA in Finance from CUNY-Baruch College.

Jaswal wants to expand community health centers, provide more hospital beds, provide affordable housing, lower property taxes and fines, improve the transit system, and prioritize funding for community social service needs.

He believes district 25 deserves a working class immigrant as its representative at the City Council.

Shekar Krishnan (D)

Shekar Krishnan. Photo: voteshekar.com

Krishnan is a community activist and civil rights lawyer specializing in fighting housing discrimination and preventing community displacement.

“Here in jackson heights we are at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. We are such an incredible, thriving immigrant community here in Jackson Heights, but we never had any voices of our South Asian community because we never had any representation in the government,” Krishnan, a son of immigrants from South India told DesiTalk NY.

He believes it is both a moment of great pride and urgency to be running as an Indian-American in the city where the community has never had any representation.

“It is important that our community has all the resources they need to come out of this pandemic because our community is the one who was hit the hardest,” Krishnan adds.

He is fighting to rebuild the city that works for everyone, for workers, for families, for tenants, and for immigrants.

If one of these candidates win in District 25, he will replace Council Member Danny Dromm (D), who is prevented from seeking another consecutive term due to term limits.

Amit Bagga (D)

Amit Bagga. Photo: amitforcouncil.com

Bagga says, in his campaign, he is running for city council in district 26 (Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, and Astoria) so that New York City can once again be a city of opportunity, dignity, and power for all its people.

Bagga, who is a native New Yorker, is proud to be queer, South Asian, a son of immigrants, and a product of the public schools.

He has been on the front lines for nearly 15 years, fighting for immigrants, workers, consumers, families, as well as Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ New Yorkers through campaigns, non-profits, and most extensively, through federal and city government.

“This means that I both know what the issues are, what it takes to address them,” he says.

Bagga strives to expand healthcare access, stabilize housing for all New Yorkers, create green jobs with economic mobility, provide safe and enriching public schools, fund immigrants and workers, revive small businesses and restaurants, re-imagine policing and re-invest those dollars.

If Bagga wins, he will replace Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (D) who is prevented from seeking another consecutive term due to term limits.

Japneet Singh (D)

Japneet Singh. Photo: Facebook Jap Singh

Japneet who has been living in Queens for the last 17 years decided to run for New York City Council representing the 28th District of Queens (South Ozone Park, South Richmond Hill and South Jamaica).

He highlights, in his campaign, the importance of the contribution the local communities provide to the government.

“New York isn’t just defined by the corporate elites on Wall Street but also by those taxi-drivers from South Jamaica and those small business owners in South Richmond Hill and definitely by all the essential workers from South Ozone Park – we are what makes New York City, the most socially diverse cities in the entire world,” he says.

He believes it is time to take the voices of these everyday people to City Hall and have a seat on the table. He wants to be the South Asian representative who actually understands the issues the communities face.

If Japneet wins in district 28, he will replace Council Member Adrienne E. Adams (D).

Felicia Singh (D)

Felicia Singh. Photo: felicia2021.com

Felicia is an educator and daughter of working-class immigrants running to bring equity and justice to District 32.

“My parents and so many people like them invest so much in our city but never see any returns on it. I am working to change that. All the issues I am working on center around the working class immigrants which help each and every community especially Indian-Americans,” Felicia told DesiTalk NY.

She believes Indian-Americans do not exist in the political realm of New York City. “More than that we need more women at a legislative level in the city. We have to make sure we are advancing South Asian women as a whole because our narratives are important,” Felicia added.

Felicia was elected to serve as a member of Assembly District 23’s County Committee, and in 2020, she served as a member of the Southeast Queens Complete Count Committee.

If Felicia wins in district 32, she will replace Council Member Erich Ulrich (R) who is prevented from seeking another consecutive term due to term limits.

All of these candidates are spurred by one goal, to give the New York City council its first Indian-American voice.

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