Not the Representation we Need

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(Response to Op-ed by Dr. Vishnu Bisram headlined ‘Vote on Tuesday’)

On November 1st, The West Indian published an opinion piece by Dr. Vishnu Bisram entitled “Vote on Tuesday!” The article encourages Indo-Caribbean people to vote for Jenifer Rajkumar, who is running for election to the state Assembly.

I am a lifelong resident of South Richmond Hill, and my mother is Guyanese. I also work in local Democratic politics, so I understand that it is important for Indo-Caribbeans to be politically involved. However, I have to disagree with Dr. Bisram’s assessment of Rajkumar. His article fails to include important details about her record.

For example, the article doesn’t explain how Rajkumar came to live in our community. Most people would assume that if someone is running for office, they have lived there for a long time. But that isn’t the case with Rajkumar.

For most of her political career, she hasn’t lived in Queens at all. Rajkumar grew up in Westchester and lived in Washington, D.C. When she moved back to New York in 2010, it wasn’t to Queens—it was to Manhattan. She became an elected official in the Financial District a year later. She then lost two other elections in Lower Manhattan: one in 2013 for city council, and one in 2016 for the 65th Assembly district.

Recently, Rajkumar appears in our community out of nowhere. She moves to Woodhaven and starts to run for Assembly again in a completely different borough. She realized that she couldn’t win a race in Manhattan, so she picked a district in Queens “where voter turnout was low enough” for her to win.

This wasn’t about helping “her” community. It was about gaining power for herself.

Dr. Bisram doesn’t mention this. Instead, he claims that Rajkumar has been endorsed by “media houses” and “the NY Governor and City Mayor.” This is false. Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio have not endorsed her. But it does raise the question: who is supporting Rajkumar?

The answer: wealthy Manhattan donors. During the primary, the grand total of donations from people in her district was $684. Meanwhile, people in Manhattan gave her over $32,000, and Rajkumar donated $50,000 to her own campaign.

Rajkumar didn’t win her campaign because she had grassroots support. She won because she raised thousands of dollars from people who don’t live in Queens. She used their money to blanket Queens with flyers, mailers, and posters illegally placed on public property.

What else did Rajkumar use her money for? On March 28th, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she violated social distancing rules and knocked on people’s doors. She put people’s lives at risk just to try to kick another candidate off the ballot. She then lied about it on social media. She said she hadn’t knocked on any doors for weeks. In the end, Rajkumar only admitted it when a journalist directly asked her if she had.

None of these facts are in Dr. Bisram’s article. They have been ignored and swept under the rug for the past year. Now Rajkumar is about to become an elected official without most voters knowing who she really is.

Representation is important. However, Jenifer Rajkumar is not the representation we need or deserve. We deserve elected officials who have actually lived in the district, who are funded by their neighbors, and who put the community’s safety ahead of their personal ambitions. It may be too late to vote against Rajkumar this year, but we will have another chance in the Democratic primary in June 2022.

I hope that we vote her out.

Aaron Narraph Fernando
aaronfernando23@gmail.com

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The views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.a

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