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Roger Chugh


Roger Chugh- appointed asst secy of state in New Jersey


Indian Express

New Delhi to New Jersey: Indians on fast track

TWO small steps in the wide world of American politics, two big steps for the Indian community. Two Indian Americans, Roger Chugh and Seema Singh have been elected to eminent positions in New Jersey: Roger Chugh was appointed as Assistant Secretary of State in the Cabinet and Singh, the Public Advocate last week.

Chugh’s appointment makes him the third most powerful official in New Jersey after Governor Jim McGreevey and Secretary of State Regina Thomas. Chugh, a Democrat who is also the chairperson of the Asian American Political Awareness group, will handle a $ 1.8 billion budget and have 2,000 people working under him.

Singh will handle the Public Advocate’s position, which was reinstated after a gap of eight years. It is a $57 million, 975-person public agency.

Their inspiration is diverse: Chugh 46, names Delhi Assembly Speaker Choudhary Prem Singh as his mentor. While Singh, 40, rewinds to her work in the leper colonies of the Burnpur-Durgapur belt in West Bengal, under the guidance of Mother Teresa.

The appointments mark the growing influence of the South Asian community in a state that is fast overtaking New York as America’s salad bowl. Last year, three Indian Americans had won elections in New Jersey: while Upendra Chivukula became the third Indian American state legislator, George James and Parag Patel won Town Board elections. Governor McGreevey said about Chugh’s appointment that ‘‘the voices of Asian Americans will be heard’’.

Chugh, a graduate of Atma Ram Sanatan Dharam College in New Delhi, became the college union general secretary in the early seventies. He counts Congress Party leaders Lalit Maken, Priyaranjan Das Munshi and Ambika Soni as among his friends and peers.

Chugh even contested for the post of president of the Delhi University. He lost those elections — obviously, his political stars were destined to shine some years later, and in another country. ‘‘I have been interested in politics right from when I was in Harcourt Butler School,’’ said Chugh, who migrated to the US in the seventies. ‘‘I wanted to be the monitor of my class!’’

Chugh’s appointment seems to be a reward for the long years he has put in for the Democrats: he rallied the Indian community together for Al Gore’s presidential bid and more recently, steered a signature campaign involving 94 Congressman, addressed to prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asking him to desist from war with Pakistan.

‘‘I want to empower and unite all the Indians here. I want to see the Gujaratis and Punjabis mingle freely with the Bengalis and South Indians,’’ says Chugh.

Roger Rajesh Chugh has found himself back in cyberspace, and he's not happy about it.

Chugh, the No. 3 official in New Jersey's Department of State, shut down his personal Web site in March after it became an embarrassment for Gov. James E. McGreevey, who appointed him. The site had exaggerated Chugh's stature in state government and included personal-ad-style descriptions of his appearance and his fondness for Broadway shows and candlelit dinners.

Now the Web site is back, under new ownership -- and what looks at first glance like self-promotion is actually a mocking reminder of the flap. It has photos of Chugh and glowing words about him ("Read Roger Chugh's inspirational biography!"), but also includes news articles and commentary critical of him.

"Somebody's playing dirty," Chugh said.

The McGreevey administration is trying to figure out if there's any way to make it go away. The Governor's office has asked the attorney general's staff to review the matter.

The new proprietor of the site is Anthony Olszewski, who ran the Web pages for Republican Bret Schundler's campaign for governor last year. Olszewski picked up the rights to the Internet address ( for $15 a year after Chugh let it lapse.

"Everything is legal. I have no plans to take it down," said Olszewski, a registered Republican from Jersey City. He said he has never met Chugh, and Chugh said he does not know Olszewski.

Schundler and the state Republican Party said they have nothing to do with the site.

"Nobody suggested I produce the site; nobody paid me," said Olszewski. And he asked sarcastically why the Democratic administration is unhappy about it.

"Is there something wrong with me pointing out he (Chugh) still works for the state?" said the Web operator. "If they're ashamed of that, I don't blame them. But I don't see how it's illegal for me to point that out."

Kevin Davitt, a spokesman for McGreevey, suggested the site's new operator may be violating the law by including a link to New Jersey's official state Web site.

"Obviously it's disturbing -- possibly illegal," Davitt said. "It's absolutely deceiving."

But cyber-law expert Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University in Manhattan, said there is almost no way for government officials to control who links to their site, and it appears that nothing was done inappropriately when Olszewski obtained the Chugh Web address.

"They probably have to suck it up and live with it," Moglen said.

Olszewski runs a number of Web sites, including an unofficial Jersey City site (, and previously worked on Web pages for Schundler's unsuccessful campaign against McGreevey.

Coincidentally, Schundler's former site ( also has been taken over by an outsider -- it's now being used as a come-on for sexually explicit material.