Ajay Patil tells community leaders in advance of U.S. Postal Inspector interview: ‘We need to have the same story telling’
An Edison councilman has identified two prominent Democrats as the masterminds behind a conspiracy to distribute a racist flyer during a school board campaign in 2017 aimed at instilling fear among Asian American voters in order to increase voter turnout, according to a report in New Jersey Globe.
Ajay Patil, a two-term Democratic councilman, identified Democratic Municipal Chairman Mahesh Bhagia and Satish Poondi, a partner at the Wilentz law firm who had chaired the state party’s South Asian American Caucus co-chairman, as architects of a “Make Edison Great Again” mailer telling voters that the “Chinese and Indians are taking over our town”, says the report.
Bhagia was selected on Wednesday as the choice of the local Democratic organization as their candidate for mayor of Edison, New Jersey’s 5th largest municipality.
Patil’s confession came in November 2020, when he met with two community leaders in advance of an interview with U.S. Postal Inspector David Comer. “We need to have the same story telling,” Patil said on a tape of the meeting obtained by the New Jersey Globe.
According to the report, the conversation took place at Chowpatty, a popular Indian restaurant in Edison which had at least one recording device in place. Indian Business Association president Dhiren Amin and Chandrakant Patel, the restaurant owner, were at the meeting with Patil.
Patel had cooperated with postal investigators and told Comer that Poondi had requested to use his restaurant to assemble the mailing, said the report.
Patil denied being part of the plot and said the mailing was put together by Bhagia and Edison Board of Education President Jingwei “Jerry” Shi, who was a school board candidate.
Patil told Amin and Patel that he questioned Poondi, whose law firm is the bond counsel for the Edison Board of Education, about the legality of the mailing, the report said.
Poondi’s alleged role in the scandal puts New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in a potentially precarious position since the two are believed to be personal friends.
Edison Mayor Thomas Lankey said that he was told an investigation has been opened, but others in the township are not sure if that’s the case – and wonder if the Grewal-Poondi relationship is the cause, although there is no evidence of that, the report said.