The Indian-Origin Players Behind the Scenes of American Politics

Here are 6 Indian-origin campaigners who have been behind the scenes at American elections.

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Video Editor: Ashutosh Bharadwaj, Mohd Irshad Alam

Representing a little over 1 percent of the total US population, Indian-origin politicians are on the rise. The Indian diaspora has already contributed more than $3 million to 2020 presidential campaigns.

Here are 6 Indian-origin campaigners who have been behind the scenes at American elections.

1. Saikat Chakrabarti

Saikat Chakrabarti was the Chief of Staff to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the U.S. Representative from New York's 14th congressional district representing portions of The Bronx and Queens in New York City.

He attended the Harvard University, graduating in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in computer science. Chakrabarti then worked on Wall Street, followed by eight years in the Silicon Valley. He later founded a web design tool, called Mockingbird, before working as a founding engineer, at payments processing company, called Stripe.

In 2015, Chakrabarti got actively involved in U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential bid. He was named to the Politico Playbook power list to watch in 2019. On August 2, 2019, he left Ocasio-Cortez's office to run New Consensus, a group to promote the Green New Deal, a proposed United States economic stimulus package that aims to address climate change and economic inequality.

Saikat Chakrabarti
Saikat Chakrabarti
(Photo: politico.com)

2. Gautam Raghavan

Gautam Raghavan was the Associate Director of Public Engagement under former President Obama, acting as a liaison to both the LGBT and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities from 2011 to 2014. He has also worked for the Progressive Majority, campaign of Obama’s presidential bid in 2008, the Democratic National Committee, the Gill Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Defense as the Outreach Lead for its ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ working group.

As the Associate Director of Public Engagement, Raghavan facilitated conversation on issues impacting both the LGBT and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, including marriage equality, workplace nondiscrimination, transgender rights, prevention of bullying, immigration reforms and access to proper health care. It was during Raghavan’s tenure that the then President Obama spoke out in favour of equality in marriage.

Raghavan currently serves as a consultant for progressive organisations including the Joe Biden Foundation and the Indian American Impact Project & Fund.

He is also the editor of the book ‘West Wingers: Stories from the Dream Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Inside the Obama White House’.

Gautam Raghavan
Gautam Raghavan
(Photo: Wikipedia)

3. Raj Shah

Raj Shah is a Republican political aide who served as the White House Deputy Press Secretary and Deputy Assistant to the President from 2017 to 2019.

Prior to joining the Trump Administration, Shah was in charge of opposition research at the Republican National Committee.

Shah interned at the White House in 2005. He worked as a campaign spokesman for New Mexico Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez in 2010. During the 2012 presidential election, Shah was deputy research director at the Republican National Committee. He worked with the staff and manager of the Mitt Romney campaign.

He quit as the White House spokesperson in January 2019 and joined the Fox Corporation in July 2019 as the Senior Vice President.

Raj Shah
Raj Shah
(Photo: politico.com)

4. Kiran Ahuja

Kiran Ahuja is the Chief of Staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. She assumed that position after serving for six years as the director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from December 2009 - 2015. Prior to that, she also worked as a lawyer with the United States Department of Justice and a founding director of a non-profit, the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.

Ahuja started college at the Emory University and then moved to Spelman College and later went to the University of Georgia School of Law, earning her degree in 1998. After school, she went to work for the Department of Justice. She was the founding executive director of the National Asian Pacific Women's Forum where she worked from 2003 to 2008.

Kiran Ahuja
Kiran Ahuja
(Photo: Twitter)

5. Avinash Iragavarapu

Avinash Iragavarapu is a political campaign strategist and was also the Executive Director of the Arizona Republican Party.

Iragavarapu started his political campaigning with the YSR Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh in the year 2013 after quitting his job at HCL.

In 2014, he moved to US where he campaigned for a candidate named Doug Ducey. After Ducey became governor, he was hired by the Republican Party as the Political Director. He soon rose to the rank of Executive Director.

Apart from actively campaigning for Donald Trump’s presidential bid, he worked on various legislative and congressional races. He is also known for using data and technology to devise political strategies.

Iragavarapu is currently the Senior Executive Director of the Republican Party.

Avinash Iragavarapu
Avinash Iragavarapu
(Photo: Wikipedia)

6. Vivek Kundra

Vivek Kundra is an American administrator who served as the first Chief Information Officer of the United States from March 2009 to August 2011 under the then President Barack Obama. Prior to that, he served in D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's cabinet as the District's Chief Technology Officer and in Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's cabinet as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Technology.

Kundra studied at the University of Maryland where he received a degree in Psychology and later a master's degree in Information Technology. He is also a graduate from the University of Virginia's Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

Kundra served as Director of Infrastructure Technology for Arlington County, Virginia, from 11 September 2001. Governor Tim Kaine appointed Kundra to the post of Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Technology for Virginia, the first dual cabinet role in the state's history, in January 2006. Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed him to the cabinet post of Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia on 27 March 2007.

He is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Sprinklr, a provider of enterprise social media management software based in NYC.

Vivek Kundra
Vivek Kundra
(Photo: Wikipedia)

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