Food Truck To Tech Startup: Indian-American Now Runs For US Congress

Bhavini Patel, 30, last year on October 2 announced her decision to run for the Congress from the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, which is currently held by her Democratic party colleague Summer Lee.

Food Truck To Tech Startup: Indian-American Now Runs For US Congress

"It's truly emblematic of the community and the needs of the community."


From helping her single parent mother running a food truck "India on Wheels" in Pittsburgh to launching a tech startup after completing her education from the Oxford University, Indian American Bhavini Patel is now running for US House of Representatives.

Ms Patel, 30, last year on October 2 announced her decision to run for the Congress from the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, which is currently held by her Democratic party colleague Summer Lee.

Over the years, Lee has become unpopular in her district for some of the extreme positions that she has taken on several issues.

Notably, Congresswoman Lee is one of the few lawmakers who had boycotted the historic Joint Address to the US Congress by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June last year.

Preparing for her first hurdle of the primary, scheduled for April 23, Ms Patel has raised over USD 310,000, of which she says roughly 70 per cent has been raised from within the State.

"It's truly emblematic of the community and the needs of the community. We've earned several labour union endorsements including support from the steamfitters, the operating engineers, and SMART, which is a railroad transportation union. When we think about support from the unions, that's a really big deal, especially coming from Western Pennsylvania where there's such a a strong history of the power of the labour movement," Ms Patel told PTI in a recent interview.

In addition to that, she has also got endorsements from roughly 33 elected officials, including mayors of small towns as well as members of council in those areas.

"It has been a lot of doors knocking. It's been a lot of one-on-one conversations, but we're very excited about powering a campaign that's truly rooted in the message of Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district and the challenges that the community is facing," she said during her recent visit to Washington DC.

Ms Patel is a die-hard Biden supporter. "To be quite honest, I think he's one of our most progressive presidents that we've seen" she said, referring to some of the key bills that his administration has been able to deliver, including infrastructure bill, Inflation Reduction Act, and Chips and Sciences Act.

Originally from Gujarat in India, her mother came to this country as an immigrant.

"She came to this country with very little, which I think is a story that resonates with many people in the Indian diaspora here in this country. When she came here, she raised my brother and I as a single parent. We moved around quite a bit, to various different cities, and she worked various odd jobs, washing dishes in the restaurant industry, working in the motel industry," Ms Patel said.

"Then she eventually came to Monroeville, which is a small suburb in western Pennsylvania, and that's where she started a small catering business, supplying samosas and various other pastries to the local Patel brothers there. From there she started a food truck business. So, my family has been running food trucks for the last 25 years," she said.

Two food trucks, one on the campus of Pittsburgh University and one on Carnegie Mellon University's campus, serving north Indian food.

"It's called India on Wheels. In many ways, that is my story. I grew up working in that family food truck business, grew up on Pitts campus, ran the serving window, helped out on the weekends with catering, and then at some point decided that I wanted to attend the University of Pittsburgh," she said.

Ms Patel soon became the first in her family to graduate from college. "Then I earned a scholarship to get my master's at the University of Oxford. Since then I have been involved in various different public service efforts. When I think about the Indian diaspora, I think about the power of that story. To me, that's so much, it's very much so emblematic of the American dream. It's the power of an idea, being able to come from a small village growing up in poverty, but being able to raise a daughter, educate your children, and then raise a daughter that's running for US Congress. To me, that is the power of this country. That's the positivity of what this country has to offer, and that's what my candidacy is about, and that's what this campaign is about," she said.

While she has been running a very positive campaign in her district, Patel of late has been a target of hate crime and racial abuse because of her ethnicity.

Following this, Hindu and Jewish groups across the country have come out in her support. Hindu American PAC recently held a fundraiser for her.

"I think one of the biggest concerns that we have right now as it relates to immigration system is actually investing more resources into it. What can we do to invest more bureaucratic support to be able to address the backlog? I think language accessibility is a big thing when we think about navigating uses when phone calls are happening. I think navigating the immigration system can be such an angsty process, and how can we provide more resources to these institutions to be able to communicate better with the individuals who are seeking visas or who are trying to go through the immigration process," she said.

Ms Patel is a strong advocate of India-US relationship. "Our relationship with India is very critical. I think there's a burgeoning young population there. There's a lot of hunger and desire to build a life and to contribute to the growth of India, but also globally there's a lot of talent. So how can the United States, particularly how can Western Pennsylvania best position itself to attract that talent?" she said.

"We're home to Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, and other university institutions. Many students do come from India. They earn their degrees. So being able to continue to build out a more robust visa programme to allow people to attend the universities, to enter into the workforce, build small businesses, innovate and solve some of the biggest challenges that we're facing in this country, including addressing things like the climate crisis," she said.

"It's going to take innovation and real thought to be able to tackle the biggest crisis that our generation is facing. And I think that being able to build coalitions globally, it's absolutely critical to be able to address those concerns," Ms Patel said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)