Close on heels of BJP win in India, Hindu-American activists pitch for select US candidates

published on June 12, 2014
Close on the heels of the spectacular BJP win in the general election, Hindu-American activists in the United States have for the first time, under the banner of a political action committee, publicly endorsed a slate of congressional candidates in the 2014 US primaries.

Leading the list of candidates winning support from the Hindu American Political Action Committee (HAPAC) is Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii, a self-declared American Hindu, who, HAPAC said, “has consistently stood by the Hindu-American community on every major domestic and international issue.”

“She has not shied away from her Hindu faith and identity, has attending many events in the Hindu-American community, has met Hindu leaders outside the US and India to share thoughts about problems worldwide, and has inspired many Hindu Americans to be proud of their identity,” the committee said, in broadly defining the litmus test for their support.

Also winning HAPAC endorsement are California Republican Ed Royce, chairman of the house foreign relations committee and co-chair of the India caucus, and Democrats Brad Sherman, Joe Crowley, Eric Swalwell, and Indian-American lawmaker Ami Bera.

Royce and Sherman were recognized for opposition to house Resolution 417, a legislation that Hindu-American activists say is an anti-pluralist and anti-India bill that would have damaged India-US relations while masquerading as one that upholds India’s diversity. Crowley and Swalwell were praised for helping push the FBI into tracking anti-Hindu hate crimes.

HAPAC also endorsed Indian-American Democratic candidates Manan Trivedi and Swati Dandekar, fighting primaries in Pennsylvania and Iowa respectively, and state senate majority leader Ellen Corbett in California.

Without specifically endorsing anyone, it made a special mention of the much watched race for the 17th congressional district in California, which is in the heart of Silicon Valley, where 2 Indian Americans (Ro Khanna and Dr Vanilla Singh) are running against an incumbent Mike Honda. Citing the work of each of the candidates for Hindu Americans, HAPAC urged the community to vote in the “historic race”.

HAPAC activists acknowledged that this is the first election cycle they have been active in although the community has been contributing to (and thus endorsing) candidates since the fall of 2013.

“With a number of primary elections coming up on June 3 in different states, we felt it would be a good idea to collate all of those endorsements together for voters heading to the polls,” chairman of the HAPAC board Rishi Bhutada told TOI. The primary criteria for endorsement are the candidates’ support for the Hindu-American community and for pluralistic ideals, besides standing a realistic chance of winning their race, he added.

While HAPAC is nowhere near as powerful as the famed American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC), which US politicians of every hue try to court, Hindu Americans say theirs is a modest beginning. Data from the Center for Responsive Politics website showed HAPAC has raised only around $18,000 to date. But, the more important development was organizing and elevating individual contribution into collective action.

Bhutada said he did not see a link to Indian politics in terms of what Hindu-American PAC is doing while presenting the increased community engagement in American politics as a natural extension of the growing Hindu-American community in the US.

“Of course, with the new government (in India), there is definite interest in the community for increased cooperation between the US government and the Indian government, and we hope that occurs,” he added.


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