Indian-American Dita Bhargava’s Connecticut Governor bid picking up speed

Says she wants to follow the Narendra Modi model in Connecticut

Updated - December 12, 2017 09:54 pm IST

Published - December 12, 2017 09:51 pm IST - Washington

Dita Bhargava is pushing for a Democratic nomination.

Dita Bhargava is pushing for a Democratic nomination.

Mudita ‘Dita’ Bhargava was elected vice-chair of the Connecticut State Democratic Party in January but the former Wall Street banker did not want to stop there. The Indian-American’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for the election of the State Governor next year is picking up speed. Ms. Bhargava is one of the four in the Democratic primary contest.

“I am not a well known entity, and hence I will have to work a lot harder than others. When people get to hear my message, they are quickly buying in,” she told The Hindu in an interview. Ms. Bhargava is racing fast to cross the first hurdle, which is to raise $250,000 in small contributions not exceeding $100 apiece.

Once her campaign crosses that threshold, it becomes eligible for public funding which allows political campaigns to be insulated from big money donors in Connecticut. In less than three weeks in September, after she announced her candidacy, Ms. Bhargava raised $53,000. “There is still more work to be done. We need around 3,000 people, but we are going to get there in time,” she said. The campaign has to meet this requirement by May 2018.

Ms. Bhargava is offering to blend her Wall Street experience and progressive political values in her political career. The 45-year old, who now runs a small business, describes herself as a “pro-business progressive”. “Connecticut has been a progressive state. I come from a humble background and believe that we need to take care of our most vulnerable people. But to fund progressive ideas, where will the resources come from? It has to come from economic growth, and more tax revenue. For me, the two go hand-in-hand,” she said.

Listening tour

She is now on a listening tour around the State. She attends Democratic meetings and gatherings at temples, mosques and churches. “Wherever there could be a community. And educate them on my ideas, and listening to them,” she said. The new tax proposals that the Donald Trump administration and the Republicans are pushing in the U.S contradicts her political notions. “The new tax proposals are Robin Hood in reverse — stealing from the poor and the giving to the rich. It is nonsense, it is regressive,” she says of one her talking points in the tour.

Ms. Bhargava is encouraged by party functionaries and the South Asian American community. “I have spoken to all party functionaries and they are all very supportive,” she said.

Ms. Bhargava was born in Ontario, Canada, and earned a degree in electrical engineering from McMaster University in Hamilton, before moving to the U.S. She worked as a Wall Street trader and portfolio manager before moving to Connecticut in 2007. Her husband Dan Pelletier was also a Wall Street banker earlier. The couple has two children — Arya, 8, and Kalyan, 7.

“I am very proud to be an Indian American and very proud of my culture, my heritage. I speak Hindi and my children, who are half-Indian, are learning it. The value system that I have, about giving back to the community... that we must always pace forward, comes from the Indian root. Also, the value of education that we have comes from the Indian heritage...,” said Ms. Bhargava, who is the granddaughter of the late Dr. P.L. Bhargarva, a renowned Indian scholar of Sanskrit and history. “I want my children also to understand what India is all about.”

She follows Indian politics — “though not in great details” — and is inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She wants to do for Connecticut what Mr. Modi has done for India, which she says is about changing the perception. “PM Modi as an example in changing the perception. He presented a vision that really resonated with the people. The day he took over, investment began to pour into India. He had not done anything yet, but the perception changed,” she said.

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