Home>Campaigns>Rival seeks Bhagia resignation after being implicated in racist flyer scandal

Edison Council Vice President Sa Joshi. (Photo: Facebook.)

Rival seeks Bhagia resignation after being implicated in racist flyer scandal

Edison Councilman Sam Joshi, a candidate for mayor, wants Bhagia to quit race and resign as Democratic chairman

By David Wildstein, March 02 2021 11:29 am

Allegations that Edison Democratic Municipal Mahesh Bhagia was the mastermind behind a racist flyer during a local election in 2017 is being asked to resign his party post and withdraw from the race for mayor of New Jersey’s 5th largest municipality.

Councilman Sam Joshi, who is also seeking the Democratic mayoral nomination, says that Bhagia’s alleged role in the conspiracy disqualifies him from leading the party and running for office.

Joshi said the racist mailer “shook our community to its core, and for nearly four years we have all hungered for justice to be done and for closure from this painful episode to arrive.”

“He  has been lying about his involvement this entire time,” Joshi said. “Mahesh Bhagia is an embarrassment and disgrace to both Edison and minorities everywhere.

On a tape obtained by the New Jersey Globe, Councilman Ajay Patil accused Bhagia and Wilentz law firm partner Satish Poondi of being the architect of a “Make Edison Great Again” flyer telling residents that the “Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”

Patil claims that he saw Bhagia and Poondi labeling the mailer at Bhagia’s home just before the November 2017 election.

“As a member of the Township Council committee investigating this matter, I have been aware of this recording for some time, but I have been unable to speak about it publicly due to the ongoing review,” Joshi said.  “Now that it is out in the open, I feel that I must speak out on it to ensure that Edison residents are aware of this disgraceful act committed by Chairman Bhagia and his associates leading into the upcoming election.”

Joshi said that Bhagia’s departure “is the only way to ensure that Edison can move forward from this incident and end the national embarrassment and pain that it has caused for all of us, and for our community to come back together in the spirit of healing and renewal.”

“Mahesh Bhagia has proven through his involvement in this incident that he is simply the wrong choice to represent our community, and I will not sit back and allow him to run in this election unchallenged,” he said.

Bhagia did not immediately return an 11:01 AM phone call seeking comment.

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.

The conversation took place at Chowpatty, a popular Indian restaurant in Edison which had at least one recording device in place.

A report from the U.S. Postal Inspector implicates what has been called the Edison Eight who have some involvement in the growing scandal.

It’s still not clear whether prosecutors are investigating the flyer, despite repeated calls that they do so from local elected officials.

The incumbent mayor, Democrat Thomas Lankey, is not seeking party support for a second term.  He is considering an off the line re-election bid in the primary, or as an independent candidate in the general election.

Joshi declined to participate in an Edison Democratic Party convention and is planning to run in the June 8 Democratic primary.

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