New Indian-American chairman of Edison Democratic Organization in New Jersey mobilizing community

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Mahesh Bhagia, the new chairman of New Jersey Edison Democratic Organization. Photo: courtesy Mahesh Bhagia

The Edison Democratic Organization got a new leader in long-time resident and community activist Mahesh Bhagia, who says since he became chairman in July, new voter registration has been going full steam, including that of Indian Americans, and voters are getting to voice their opinions on various issues.

News India Times/Desi Talk interviewed Bhagia about his background and priorities as Chairman of the Edison Democratic Organization (edited for style and accuracy)

How do you feel about the new position? What have you accomplished  since taking over as Chair of the Edison Democratic Organization?

My term started on July 21, 2020, and I am excited to lead the Edison Democratic Organization. Edison is the fifth largest municipality in New Jersey and we have a very energized party. Since taking over in July, our party has been registering new voters and making sure that our residents’ voices are heard.

We have also mobilized our residents to protect their interest. For example, last month, thousands of residents signed a petition by Edison Democrats to stop a 7.5 percent tax increase. We have also mobilized neighborhoods against overdevelopment and unsafe truck traffic.

Finally, we have implemented a variety of programs to help our seniors. For example, right now we are distributing free leaf bags to seniors across town.

How are you getting more voters to register for November?

We have an aggressive plan to register voters in Edison. I am proud of my committee members and dozens of volunteers that are making sure every eligible voter gets registered through the state’s new online voter registration program.

We also have had to educate voters since this year most voting will happen by mail due to COVID-19. Thankfully, we have a group of dedicated volunteers that are spending hours on this.

I encourage everyone to register to vote. Its easy and straight forward — by visiting https://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/voter-registration.shtml

How has the pandemic affected the work?

While COVID-19 has certainly created challenges in contacting voters, the Edison Democrats are not deterred. We have found novel ways of reaching voters, emphasizing contactless campaigning. We have launched a brand new website –www.EdisonDems.org. We are also on Facebook and other social platforms.

What inspired you to get into politics?

I got into politics by accident. It started out with some neighborhood issues, getting a bus stop moved to a safer location and then trying to get (repair) a street that was badly paved.

As I got more involved, I started seeing taxpayer money being wasted, and friends of politicians getting contracts. I thought it was important to organize residents against these things. In the process, I realized that positive things for Edison could only happen with systemic changes.

What kind of work are you doing specifically targeting the Indian American community?

I have lived in Edson for over 20 years. I am an active member in a number of local and neighborhood civic actions. With COVID-19 many people have lost their jobs.

We organized a very large mobile food pantry where local residents could obtain a week worth of groceries – no questions asked.

We also distributed PPEs to the residents, local hospital and first responders.

My daughter and niece are currently running a safe online space for teenagers during this stressful time.

It is up to each of us to contribute back to our community; I just hope to play my role.

 

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