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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

First Hindu lawmaker in US Congress Tulsi Gabbard to officially launch 2020 White House campaign on February 2

Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker in the US Congress, said she will officially launch her 2020 White House campaign on February 2. Gabbard had announced her intention to run in a TV interview earlier in January.

world Updated: Jan 27, 2019 13:21 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Tulsi Gabbard is not Indian-American, but the community has embraced her as one of its own as she is a Hindu and also because of her efforts to reach out to them. She is also the co-chair of the House India caucus.
Tulsi Gabbard is not Indian-American, but the community has embraced her as one of its own as she is a Hindu and also because of her efforts to reach out to them. She is also the co-chair of the House India caucus.(AP)
         

Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker in the United States Congress, said she will officially launch her 2020 White House campaign with a speech on February 2.

Gabbard had announced her intention to run in a TV interview earlier in January, but had added that she would be doing a formal launch at a later date, which she declared in a letter to supporters.

At the Hawaii state legislature, the three-term member of the House of Representatives invoked a speech by Martin Luther King Jr, the iconic leader of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, in which he sought inspiration from the state on how to achieve racial harmony.

“You can never know what it means to those of us caught for the moment in the tragic and often dark midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, to come to a place where we see the glowing daybreak of freedom and dignity and racial justice,” Dr King, as he was called, had said.

“It is in this spirit of compassion and respect for the freedom and dignity of all people that I’m offering to serve you as your President,” Gabbard wrote in the letter to her supporters, asking them if they would like to tune in to her live on “Saturday, February 2, when I’ll be officially announcing my candidacy for President, to hear my vision for the country and the movement we will build together”.

Interestingly, Democratic Senator Kamala Harris launched her campaign for the White House on Martin Luther King Day last Monday in an apparent bid to frame herself as an African-American, which is on her father’s side. On her mother’s side, she is an Indian-American.

Gabbard is part of a growing group of Democrats who have either declared their run for the presidency or are considering it — Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, Pete Butt, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown and others, each hoping to win the Democratic nomination to take on President Donald Trump, whose low approval ratings and chaotic presidency make him look vulnerable.

The Indian-American community of 4 million is not large enough to break or make a presidential run, but their increasing political activism and check-writing abilities go much beyond their numbers, and they are now courted aggressively by all candidates. Donald Trump, as the Republican nominee, became the first major party candidate to hold an outreach event specifically with Indian-Americans in 2016.

Gabbard is not Indian-American, but the community has embraced her as one of its own as she is a Hindu and also because of her efforts to reach out to them. She is also the co-chair of the House India caucus, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sent personal wishes and gifts on her wedding in 2015 through party senior Ram Madhav.

The Republican Hindu Coalition is expected to announce its endorsement of Gabbard for the primaries on Monday, said its chairman Shekhar Tiwari. The community is excited about both Harris and Gabbard and Democratic strategists worry they may split the community.

“Yes, their running (Harris and Gabbard) might split the community’s resources — volunteer and financial — in 2019. But they have to make it to January 2020 and the primaries (especially March) to see if there is any division in votes,” Shekar Narasimhan, leading Democratic strategist working on the party’s outreach into the Asia-Pacific and Islanders community, said just days before Harris and Gabbard had announced their intention to contest.