Ritu Jha –
Rumors about Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s possible presidential run for 2020 were confirmed Friday when the first Hindu Congresswoman announced on national television she would be in the race.
Gabbard’s run was no surprise to the Indian-American community though many now focus on whether her campaign could give people a better understanding of Hinduism and what being a Hindu means.
Even while the representative from Hawaii gave hints of running, the Hindu American Foundation, an advocacy group, had started a campaign “I am Hindu American” to create awareness about Hinduism in the US.
Samir Kalra, managing director of HAF, told indica, “It’s great that a Hindu is running for president. “It’s a sign of the community’s growing influence and acceptance. It’s an opportunity for Americans to learn more about who Hindus are and what Hindus believe. It’s gratifying to see someone who we’ve honored in the past go on to bigger and even more important things.”
Rishi Kumar, the council member from Saratoga, California, said, “Tulsi is fearless, ethical and will do the right thing for America.”
He said he had always admired her ability, even before she was elected to Congress.
“I have always been impressed with her fortitude and independent thinking,” Kumar said. “These are the type of leaders America needs. I sincerely believe that Tulsi is the ethical leadership that America needs. It took courage for Tulsi to resign from the DNC when she observed something that was wrong [resigning as vice chair to endorse Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate over the Democratic National Committee’s preference, Hillary Clinton]. I trust Tulsi.”
Born in Hawaii, Gabbard is the first Samoan-American and the first Hindu member of Congress. Elected to Congress in 2012, the Iraq veteran serves on the House Armed Services Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Her campaign press note said she has been a Hindu American leader in the truest sense, from being the first ever member of Congress to take the oath on the Bhagavad Gita to fiercely advocating for not only her constituents but for issues impacting the wellbeing of Hindus here and around the world. It said Gabbard’s approach to lawmaking and diplomacy has been guided by dharma and steeped in the spirit of karma yoga.
It said that Gabbard has also been vocal against inaccurate and disrespectful presentations of Hindu teachings and traditions in the media and public school textbooks and advocated for civil and human rights not only for Hindu minorities but all people who are suffering.
In The Van Jones Show on CNN, she said she aimed to “ensure every American gets the healthcare they need, to bring about comprehensive immigration reform, to make sure we have clean water and clean air for generations to come, to fix our broken criminal justice system, to end the corrupt influence of special interests in Washington, and so much more.
“But the main reason I’m running has to do with an issue that is central to the rest – war and peace. I look forward to talking with you more about this in the coming days. When we stand together, united by our love for each other and for our country, there is no challenge we cannot overcome,” she wrote in an email sent to her supporters.
In her first tweet after the announcement, Gabbard urged her fellow countrymen to join her campaign.
“When we stand together, united by our love for each other and for our country, there is no challenge we cannot overcome. Will you join me?” she asked on Twitter.
However, she had faced criticism, among other things for her past attacks on the LGBTQ community; for meeting up with Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, which is riven by a civil war Gabbard believes the US should not have intervened in; and objecting to the Iran nuclear deal under President Barack Obama (though she also objected when President Donald Trump decided to pull out of it.
Gabbard also worries the left because of some enthusiastic support she has garnered in far-right groups and the right-wing press.
She did apologize for her earlier views on the LGBTQ community.
“I’m grateful for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey,” she said on CNN. “Over the past six years in Congress, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to help work toward passing legislation that ensures equal rights and protections on LGBTQ+ issues, such as the Equality Act, the repeal of DOMA, Restore Honor to Service members Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Equality for All Resolution. Much work remains to ensure equality and civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ Americans and if elected President, I will continue to fight for equal rights for all.”
Senator Kamala Harris, who has Indian roots, is also expected to announce her candidacy soon.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has already announced her decision to run for president and held rallies in Iowa last week.
Other expected candidates are Julian Castro, Barack Obama’s former housing chief, and former vice president Joe Biden