Indian-American Shruti Bhatnagar is running for a seat on the Montgomery County Council. The four member council currently has three spots open to 20 candidates. If she were to be elected, Bhatnagar would become the first Indian-American women to serve on the Council.
Bhatnagar’s Indian-American support in this campaign largely represents the county’s population, of which 30 percent is estimated to be Indian-American. Montgomery County is home to several Indian-American politicians such as Kumar Barve, the first and longest-serving Indian-American state legislator. Montgomery County resident Aruna Miller is also the first Indian-American woman in the House of Delegates, and she is currently campaigning for Congress.
A fervent Democrat, Bhatnagar currently serves as the Vice Chair of the District 18 Caucus and is a board member on both the Women’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County and the Indian-American Democratic Club as well as an At-Large member on the executive committee of the Montgomery County Civic Federation.
This January, Bhatnagar coordinated a county-wide Women’s March in Washington, D.C., championing the rights of women as well as immigrants.
“We want to make sure that we make a statement that women’s rights are human rights. We want to make sure that we convey a message that diversity is the strength in our community,” said Bhatnagar.
Currently, she serves on the Montgomery County Commission of Children and Youth, leading subcommittees that work on issues concerning drugs, mental health, and immigration. Additionally, Bhatnagar represents the concerns of minorities in her leadership positions in the Takoma Foundation, a local chapter of the Great Washington Community Foundation, and the Asian Pacific American Student Action and Achievement Group.
“These concerns are not just related to education but also to promote cultural proficiency and combat the increase in hate crimes,” Bhatnagar said.
Bhatnagar is an ardent proponent for political participation through voting and improving education. Aiming for higher voter registration especially among the Indian-Americans, who only have a 50 percent registration rate, Bhatnagar wishes that constituents will participate in the legislative process. Additionally, Bhatnagar strives to better the opportunities of students and the PTA, advocating for infrastructural needs, resources, and sensible gun use.
Born in Udaipur, Rajasthan and raised in Delhi, Bhatnagar, 46, has been actively serving Montgomery County during her 18 years of residence.
“I am deeply committed to our County, its children, youth and families. I have served the community for the past 15 years, beginning with Kensington Heights Civic Association in my neighborhood and rising to leadership positions at the State, County and Local level,” Bhatnagar writes on her website.
Indeed, Bhatnagar has also been involved on multiple levels of the PTA, working with Takoma Park’s PTAs, the Montgomery County Council of PTA’s, as well as the Maryland PTA.
Bhatnagar spent most of her schooling in India, receiving both a Bachelor’s in Economics and Political Science as well as a Master’s in Business Administration. Bhatnagar thanks her parents for her upbringing and education, as she was the daughter of a business owner and a teacher.
“Both my parents had to work to make sure my sister and I could get quality education. They taught me the values of putting family first, good education, hard work and community service,” Bhatnagar explained.
In New Delhi, Bhatnagar worked in finance before expanding to the software and telecommunications development sectors with U.S. corporations. After her move to the U.S, Bhatnagar worked at the American Red Cross, supported students in private Montessori and Montgomery County schools, and taught E.S.O.L.
While building her life in a new country, Bhatnagar started to give back to her local community through the Kensington Heights Civic Association.
“Making a difference to affect positive change has always inspired me to do more in the community even as a elementary school student. I found it rewarding to work on issues that could help improve the quality of life for all my neighbors,” Bhatnagar explained.
To run a successful campaign, Bhatnagar has been working with Indian-American activists including Barve and Miller and securing $250,000. A minimum of 250 donors and $20,000 would allow her to gain matching funds from the county.
Despite her numerous opponents, Bhatnagar believes that she is qualified and ready. “I am committed to making a difference. Elected office is a great way to continue serving the community and have a greater impact on the issues our community cares about,” Bhatnagar said.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Alice Zhu of Richard Montgomery High School