|Lalit K Jha,
Washington, May 6 - A record number of Indian Americans -- at least 12 -- are in the fray for the November 2012 polls vying for a place in the House of Representative, reflecting the serious effort of this fastest growing ethnic community in the US to politically empower itself.
Cutting across party lines, these Indian-American candidates are spread all over the country with two each from California and Michigan.
Congressman Hansen Clare, who is half Indian, is seeking re-election from Michigan, while another candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a Hindu, is receiving massive support from Indian- Americans.
The motivation and inspiration for these Indian-American candidates numbering at least a dozen comes from the phenomenal success of two rising stars of the Republican party, Nikki Haley (Governor of South Carolina) and Bobby Jindal (Governor of Louisiana).
However, majority of the Indian-American candidates are running for the Congress on a Democratic Party ticket.
Indian-Americans have been traditional supporter of the Democratic party, an indication of which comes from a recent survey according to which as many as 85 per cent of the Indian Americans favour re-election of President Barack Obama.
Among the Indian-American candidates seeking election for the US House of Representatives on a Democratic Party ticket are Upendra Chivukula from New Jersey, Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois, K P George from Texas, Ami Bera from California, Manan Trivedi from Pennsylvania, Syed Taj from Michigan and Vipin Verma from Florida.
Darshan Rauniyar from Washington, though from Nepal, is considered Indian-American by many.
Hansen Clarke and Tulsi Gabbard are also from the Democratic Party.
Young and dynamic Ranjit "Ricky" Gill from California and Ron Bhalla from Tenesse are the two Indian-American candidates in the fray from the Republican Party.
The 2012 election cycle has beaten the record of 2010 Congressional elections when for the first time eight Indian- Americans were in the fray, of which only Clarke tasted electoral victory.
Though the elections are still six months away, if news reports are any indication chances are that Clarke could have more Indian American colleagues in US House of Representatives.
Besides Clarke, only two other Indian-Americans have been elected to the Congress so far -- Bobby Jindal and Dalip Singh Saund.
"We see Indian-Americans on the political rise," Toby Chaudhuri of the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) told PTI.
AAPI is launching a new bipartisan Leadership Network to work for the victory of the record number of Asian-American candidates seeking election this year.
"Many are gathering to launch a new Leadership Network that builds on the rapid growth in the number of Asian- American elected officials and candidates," Chaudhuri said.
Chaudhuri said the new Leadership Network will help build and nurture a new generation of bipartisan leaders from the fastest growing racial group in the United States.
Among the AAPI candidates who may alter the balance of power in the next Congress are Republican Ricky Gill and Democrats Ami Bera and Manan Trivedi.
Gill, who is just 25, is a political star in the making.
The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee named Gill a "contender" in their Young Guns programme, and he is launching an ambitious challenge to incumbent Jerry McNerney in California's ninth district.
Despite what may look like long odds, the Washington Post called him, "the kind of Republican that might have a shot in this Democratic-leaning district."
The first generation American is a small business owner, a family farmer and served on the California State Board of Education.
Ami Bera has been a physician and educator in the Sacramento area for over 15 years.
In 2010, Bera, also a first generation American, challenged six-year incumbent Dan Lungren in a Congressional district that had long been firmly conservative.
Though his 2010 challenge fell just short, redistricting has narrowed the partisan gap and the Cook Political Report rates the 2012 rematch as a "toss-up".
After analysing the redrawn 7th California district Politico said, "This race goes to the top of the watch list."
Iraq War veteran and primary care doctor Manan Trivedi is taking another shot at winning Pennsylvania's 6th district this year.
In 2010, Trivedi lost by 14 points to long-time incumbent Jim Gerlach.
But with the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which lists the race as a highly competitive "Red to Blue" target, 2012 could be a different story.
The district voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and Trivedi could be primed to pull an upset.
In a recent interview to PTI, Haley had urged Indian- Americans to get involved.
"I love the fact that they are great at medicine, great at engineering, great at business and less dependent on government assistance. Leaders with that kind of background who understand that government is there to secure the rights and freedoms of the people, not be all things to all people are the people we need running for office," Haley had said.
Tulsi was the youngest woman in America ever elected to a state legislature when in 2002 at the age of 21 she won a Hawaii State House seat.
As a member of the Hawaii National Guard, Tulsi Gabbard served two tours of duty in the Middle East.
She was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for her service and currently serves as a Captain.
Deputy Speaker of New Jersey State Assembly and prominent politician, Chivukula, 61, holds the distinction of being the first Indian-American elected to the New Jersey Legislature, and is only the fourth Indian-American to be elected to a state legislature. PTI