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Post-Edwards, desi cabbies have no one to support

Feb 01, 2008 12:56 PM IST India India

New York: The yellow cab is a fixture in New York City. There are about 26,000 taxi drivers on the roads, and nearly two-thirds of them are from the Indian subcontinent.

Obviously, they form a significant voting bloc when the New York primary comes around and among these drivers there is little doubt over which party they support.

A desi cabbie, Harjinder Singh says, "Mazdooro ke sunte hain, is basis pe hum support karte hain Democrats ko." ("They listen to the labour class and so we shall vote for the Democrats.")

They may have settled on a party, but they remain undecided over the candidate and that is strange, given that one of them — Senator Hillary Clinton — is a Senator from New York state.

But the cabbies' grouse is that the candidates have done little to address their issues.

Co-founder New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Biju Mathew says, "I don't think Hillary has done much for taxi drivers. There's been a lot of lip service about immigrant labour but there hasn't been any clear actions that have come from the Hillary Clinton or for that matter from any of the other candidates. The problem, of course, has been that at the Federal level the Republicans have been in power for the last seven years, as a result of which Democrats always have a way of hiding behind the fact that there hasn't been an opportunity."

The drivers' demands include another fare hike, since the last one was in 2004 and gas prices have shot up since then. They also oppose the requirement to install a GPS system, which they feel violates their privacy by tracking their cabs wherever they are.

Interestingly, many taxi drivers were looking at John Edwards as the pro-labor candidate. But now since he's dropped out of the race, it's very possible that a majority of New York cabbies may not turn out to vote on Super Tuesday given their lack of enthusiasm for the remaining candidates.