Hindu Americans Fete First Hindu in Congress as Tulsi Gabbard Prevails in Hawaii
Washington, D.C. (November 7, 2012) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) celebrated a historic day as Tulsi Gabbard overwhelmingly prevailed to claim a congressional seat in the Second Congressional District of Hawaii. A Democrat, Gabbard will enter the U.S. House of Representatives as the first Hindu-American legislator nearly a half-century after Dalip Singh Saund, a Sikh, served in the same body.
Ami Bera, who grew up Hindu and now identifies as a Unitarian Universalist, holds the advantage in a tight race in a Sacramento area congressional district. In a year where a record number of Hindu Americans ran prominent campaigns, Manan Trivedi of Pennsylvania and Upendra Chivukula of New Jersey came up short.
Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a practicing Hindu of the Vaishnava tradition, campaigned on her experience as a former Honolulu City Councilwoman and Iraq war veteran. Her landslide win was expected after she became the Democratic party’s candidate following a primary victory in the state’s second district in July. She replaces Mazie Hirono, a Buddhist, who subsequently won Hawaii’s vacant Senate seat.
"Gabbard is an incredibly inspiring leader whose political rise is a testament to the greatest ideals of American pluralism,” said Aseem Shukla, co-founder and Board member of HAF. “That Gabbard won while proudly espousing her Hinduism and voicing a willingness to be a strong voice for Hindu Americans brings over two million Americans into the political landscape for the first time. Her cultural understanding of Hawaii’s unique and diverse population, will serve her district’s interests well. Bolstering the economy, safeguarding the environment, and supporting Hawaii’s heritage of pluralism, we understand, will be top priorities.”
Gabbard,of Samoan-American origin, told the Religion News Service that among many issues, she will also focus on environmental issues, veteran affairs, and developing relations with India, Hinduism’s spiritual homeland. “How can we have a close relationship if decision-makers in Washington know very little, if anything, about the religious beliefs, values, and practices of India's 800 million Hindus?" asked Gabbard.
She also stated her desire to become the first to take her oath of office in January 2013 on the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu holy scripture that inspires a billion people globally.
The Foundation remains in close contact with Gabbard and Bera through their offices in California and Washington, D.C. Large networks of local and national HAF members independently supported both campaigns as well.
"The 2012 elections are a milestone for our community,” said Jay Kansara, HAF’s Associate Director. “We are absolutely certain that Gabbard and Bera will engage the Dharma community, address the interests of all faith communities, and fortify the firewall of religious freedom in government and beyond. We look forward to working with their offices on issues affecting our community at large.”