New Jersey Leadership Program Announces New President, Board Leadership

GUTTENBERG, NJ – The New Jersey Leadership Program (NJ Lead), a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that seeks to educate and encourage South Asian youth in New Jersey to get involved in public service, government and politics, recently announced a new president and board leadership.

Ishan Shah, Manager of Government Affairs at Quest Diagnostics, will succeed Amit Jani as President. Ishan previously served in the Office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and as Chief of Staff to New Jersey Assemblyman Kevin Rooney, as well as on NJGOP Chairman Bob Hugin’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2018.

“I thank Amit and the NJ Lead team for building such an incredible program and I am glad to be able to take over during a time of incredible interest and success in political engagement within the South Asian community,” said incoming NJ Lead President Ishan Shah. “It has never been more important to get the young people more involved. NJ Lead through its Summer Fellowship Program seeks to develop the next generation of South Asian political leaders.”

Amit was an original co-founder of NJ Lead and served as its president since its inception in 2015. He previously served as the National Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Director for President Joe Biden, and has worked for several elected officials including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, as well as Members of Congress Frank Pallone, Jr. and Judy Chu.

“I am incredibly excited that Ishan will be leading NJ Lead along with the new board leadership,” said Jani. “We are incredibly proud of helping to start this program with the help of a village and that we have had close to 60 alumni of South Asian descent in New Jersey graduate from our program over the past six years, many of whom decided to continue in public service. This new leadership will help to bring in fresh ideas and initiatives, helping NJ Lead to continue developing into the premier program it has become.”

Jani, who will continue serving as a board member, also thanked NJ Lead’s co-founders, as well as recent board members who stepped down in Kristian Stout as Vice President and Henal Patel as General Counsel.

Incoming NJ Lead leadership will include Meet Patel as Vice President and Kunal Papaiya as General Counsel. Darshan Jha and Aadi Kulkarni will join as board members. Their biographies are included below.

“As a NJ Lead Fellow and alumni, I’ve benefited tremendously from this program and I am glad to be able to give back,” said incoming Vice President Meet Patel. “I consider myself very fortunate to have been placed in the Governor Murphy’s office as a NJ Lead Fellow and to have subsequently been hired by him following my college graduation—I hope to continue this pipeline to public service for future generations of South Asian youth throughout New Jersey.”

NJ Lead announced its new board leadership as it prepares to open applications for the 2022 Summer Fellowship Program on December 1, 2021.

New NJ Lead Board Leadership

Ishan Shah – President
Ishan Shah currently serves as the Manager of Government Affairs at Quest Diagnostic. He previously served as an aide to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Chief of Staff to New Jersey Assemblyman Kevin Rooney. He also worked for NJGOP Chairman Bob Hugin’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2018.

Meet Patel – Vice President
Meet Patel currently serves in New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Patel is an alumnus of the NJ Lead Fellowship Program and joined the Murphy Administration as an IGA intern through NJ Lead. He previously also served as Committeeman for the New Brunswick Democratic Organization.

Kunal Papaiya – General Counsel
Kunal Papaiya is a co-owner and General Counsel of USA Wine Traders Club, a growing portfolio of large-sized retail liquor stores throughout New Jersey. A graduate of Rutgers Law School in Newark, Kunal was co-president of the Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) and co-founded the Rutgers University Student Caucus (RUSC). Kunal served as a City Year Boston AmeriCorps Member during the 2015-2016 academic school year.

Darshan Jha – Board Member
Darshan Jha currently serves as an aide to Senator-Elect Jean Stanfield, as well as outgoing Assemblyman Ryan Peters in New Jersey’s 8th Legislative District. Jha previously worked as a Burlington County Field Coordinator for the NJGOP. He previously also worked for a nonprofit focused on helping individuals get into the workforce. Darshan served in the U.S. Army from 2009 to 2018 and left as a NBC NCO.

Aadi Kulkarni – Board Member
Aadi is a proud NJLP alumni from 2017 and currently is the Chair of the Alumni Board. He is a Senior studying Policy Analysis and Information Science at Cornell University originally from Far Hills, NJ. He has interned with Senator Cory Booker, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, and Harvard Law School’s Innovation Lab. Outside of exploring the tri-state food scene with other fellows, he runs 5ks, loves to cook, and is addicted to online chess.

More information about NJ Lead and its 2022 Summer Fellowship Program can be found at


The New Jersey Leadership Program (NJ Lead) is a non-partisan, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting South Asian American youth participation and education at the local level of government in the State of New Jersey. NJ Lead and its Fellowship Program focus on developing leadership skills, building public policy knowledge, and building the pipeline for South Asian Americans to work in government or pursue public office at the local, state, and federal levels. To learn more about NJ Lead, please visit

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