While much attention has been given to how Louisiana’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, born a Hindu, converted to Christianity and Nikki Haley, a Sikh by birth who is also a convert and is favoured to become the next Governor of South Carolina, this trend appears to hold just as true for the majority of the record number of Indian-American Democrats who are seeking major elected office during the November 2 mid-term elections.
Race many no longer be a major issue for Indian-American candidates seeking important public offices in the United States during the mid-term elections this November, but religion still appears to be an impediment, with just one self-declared Hindu among more than half-a-dozen candidates running for office.
Among those who are leading contenders is Nikki Haley, the Republican candidate for Governor of South Carolina, born a Sikh but a convert to Methodism, a Christian denomination, and Kamala Harris, a Democrat seeking to become California’s next Attorney General, who is a Baptist.
Ami Bera, aiming for the House of Representatives from California, is a Unitarian, while Ravi Sangisetty, from Louisiana, is Catholic. The only openly Hindu candidate is Manan Trivedi from Pennsylvania.
At one level, observers of these elections have pointed out that this may well reflect the diverse nature of India itself. But, there is also the factor of a Hindu candidate not being as acceptable by the mainstream.
In fact, in 2008, Indian-American Democrat Ashwin Madia, a Jain and an Iraq war veteran, narrowly lost to his Republican rival following jibes that he was “not one of us.”
But the trend also highlights that latest census figures show that when it comes to religious self-identification among adults, the number of those declaring themselves to be Hindus has dropped by nearly a quarter since 2001.