Mohammad Zainal Abedin: New York City is set to hold primaries for the local and citywide offices primary elections on June 22, 2021. Like many other communities, the Bangladeshi community is not just fielding almost a dozen candidates but is also organizing itself for an impact on the results.
According to ‘Pew Research Center’, 59 percent of Asian Americans are registered Democrats, 12 percent are Republicans, and more than 28 percent of voters are not registered with any party. Among the Bangladeshis who are involved in political activities, informed that about 90% are democrats. To explore the reasons why the Bangladeshis overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party, some leading activists briefly replied almost identically.
Kazi Nayon, a community activist, came to America in 1988 to attend a conference of Lion International and preferred to stay back here and registered as a democrat. He said, the very name of the ‘Democratic Party’ is the main factor that attracts Bangladeshis to lean to it. They are in general introduced with the term democracy since their childhood. They believe Democratic Party can solve their problem, though most of them are not aware of the manifestos, aims and objectives of any party in America.
Nasir Khan Paul:
Nasir Khan Paul a leading activist of the Bangladeshi community in NY who is the Chairman of Bangladesh-American Republican Alliance. He is one of those 200 pharmacists, who came to America 1976 under special arrangement of the US government.
When asked why he is involved in the Republican Party, though about 90% of the Bangladesh-origin Americans are the followers of the Democratic Party, he said, “I walked to the opposite direction on ideological ground.” “I found this party traditional, what we mean religious. This party does not support abortion or gay marriage. It stands to secure the vital interest of America and retains its supremacy in the world.”
He said, “Republicans want a smaller government, so it cannot control your total freedom, but the Democrats want a larger government to control your every affair.” “This is a big difference between the two,” he added.
Morshed Alom: Morshed Alom, a Masters of Dhaka University of Bangladesh came to America in 1984, who availed a city job in the Environment Protection Agency. Since his arrival in America, he keenly observed the activities of the Democratic Party, who found it vocal for the poor section of the people, immigrants and working class. Its leaders are concerned for “our rights and privileges.” After getting American citizenship he joined Democratic Party and actively engaged his time and energy that helped him to be acquainted with many party leaders. Besides, his profession helped him to interact with cross-sections of people to get wide recognition.
Being a community leader, he was elected one of the members of the Community School Board for two terms (1996-2001). He was also elected the Vice-president of Queens School Board.
“Sensing my popularity and acceptability in and outside my community,” he said, “I expressed my intention to run in 1998 for the NY State Senate from District 11(Jamaica area) when Bangladeshis was a small community of 5% of the total population, having only 104 voters.”
“But the local democratic party leadership declined my candidacy,” he said and added “Still, I was determined to contest against the then State Senator Frank Padavan.” “I bagged 27,700 (41%) of the total votes,” he informed saying “Such a turnout in my favor attracted huge voters from all other communities.” He admitted saying, “I could do better if I could accumulate more campaign money.”
Though he was defeated he got huge coverage by the mainstream media, including New Times, Washing Post, Los Angel’s Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, etc.
“Now the number of the Bangladeshi voters are about 15,000 in the same constituency,” he said, “But no Bangladeshi could win in any election in NYC.” He narrated some other reasons for his defeat and the defeat of others since Bangladeshis started to contest, which I hope to mention in my next article.
The incumbent Treasurer of District 37 Maf Misbah Uddin, and founder of the ‘Alliance of South Asian American Labor’ (ASALL) is a Democrat of all the communities of NYC.
Pointing to the popularity and acceptability of the Democratic Party he said, about 80% of the NYC dwellers are democrats, i.e., out of every 5 New Yorkers 4 are democrats. He said, Democratic Party stands for the underprivileged people and fights to ensure their well being that include health, food stamps, free medical care, even free food for the poorest. He said, whoever, legal or undocumented reaches NYC, he will not die without proper treatment.
Working people of any State having Democratic Party government can join a union, get pension, health insurance, and other facilities.
President of ASALL highlighting the differences of the two major parties of America opined, “Out of the 50 US states, 28 are ruled by the Republicans. They passed the law of right to work. But to me, workers of those states, in practice, cannot enjoy the advantages of the law.”
“Workers cannot bargain, cannot negotiate, cannot demand for their salary, health insurance, and other benefits,” he added, saying, “All these differences encourage the people to lean to Democratic Party.”
Toubur Rahman: Mohammad Taubour Rahman came to America in 1986 completing masters from Dhaka University. Arriving in America, he worked in several private jobs and finally got a city job in the Social Service Department.
Explaining the reason for joining Democratic Party, he said “I personally believe in democracy and democratic practice where people can express their views.” “So, my idea and ideology coincided with that of Democratic Party, which inclined me to it,” and added, “I started to participate in meetings and events of Democratic Party.” I engaged him for his party that helped him to be acquainted with many heavyweight party leaders like Joseph Crowley and the non-Bangladeshi communities that fetched popularity and acceptability for him.
In 2017 Toubur Rahman contested in 2017 from Council District 24 (Jamaica). Though he still is an active democrat, Democratic Party did not endorse his candidacy. Yet he got 2nd highest votes (38%) though Bangladeshi voters were only 5%, as the Bangladeshi and the South Asian leaders did not cooperate with him rather opposed him.
Though the Bangladeshi-Americans since 1998 are contesting in NYC, even in NY State elections, none of them ever elected. Still, they are aggressively continuing their efforts to enter, at least, the City Hall, not to speak of Albany, as it is far off.
The concerned candidates this year also desperately move door to door to attract the voters. However, the Bangladeshi observers apprehend, many voters, particularly the Bangladeshi ones, may not overwhelmingly go to the polling centers to cast their votes, as many of them do not attach proper importance to the primary elections of any level. *
Ø Mohammad Zainal Abedin is a Bangladesh-origin American journalist & Bangladeshis.
Ø May 20, 2021