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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tulsi Gabbard - the first Hindu-american at US House of Representatives from Hawaii

US State Presidential elections have just concluded – it was the 57th quadrennial presidential election that took place on November 6, 2012. The Democratic nominee, President Barack Obama, and his running mate, Vice President Joe Biden, were elected to a second term. Their major challengers were the Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. The election campaign saw major debates on the economy and jobs, the national deficit, social policy, immigration and foreign policy.

As specified in the Constitution, the 2012 presidential election coincided with the United States Senate elections where one-third of the Senators faced re-election (33 Class I seats), and the biennial United States House of Representatives elections to elect the members for the 113th Congress. One amongst them is Hawai.  Hawaii's 2nd congressional district is a congressional district in the U.S. state of Hawaii. The district encompasses all rural and most suburban areas that are part of the City and County of Honolulu, which covers all of the island of Oahu. Democrat Tulsi Gabbard won the race for Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District  with an overwhelming lead over her Republican challenger.  Gabbard had 168,466 votes, or 76.8 percent, while Republican Kawika Crowley had 40,697 votes, or 18.6 percent after the second release of results.  Gabbard will succeed Democrat Mazie Hirono, who stepped down to run for the U.S. Senate seat begin vacated by retiring Daniel Akaka.

It is a history of sorts for Ms. Tulsi Gabbard  as she becomes the first Hindu-American to be elected to the US House of Representatives. President Barack Obama  congratulated the Congresswoman-elect, who says her doors will always be open to people from her faith.  Besides being the first Hindu member, she is one of the first female combat veterans of the United States Congress. Gabbard previously served on the Honolulu City Council.  Gabbard previously served as Hawaii's youngest state representative, elected in 2002, and was the youngest woman in the United States to be elected to a state legislature. She is currently a Company Commander with the Hawaii Army National Guard, and has volunteered to serve on two deployments to the Middle East.  Gabbard co-founded Healthy Hawaii Coalition, an environmental educational group of which she is Vice President and Educational Programs Coordinator.

While all five Indian-American candidates hoping to enter the US Congress lost out,  only 31-year-old Iraq war veteran Tulsi Gabbard  survived. She is reported to have taken  her oath on the Bhagavad Gita. Gabbard signifies the kind of change that is coming to Congress willy-nilly. There could be some resistance from a Congress that is married to tradition. In fact, the last time a Hindu prayer was attempted in Congress, fanatics from Operation Save America/Operation Rescue loudly interrupted it. Undoubtedly, India has far more religious diversity in Parliament than does the US Congress.  For a country whose founding principles include religious freedom, the American government has a history of being almost homogenous with respect to religion. For most federal representatives, the question isn’t whether or not you’re Christian but what Christian denomination you follow,” said ABC News.

Proud of her Hindu religion, Gabbard is not Indian. She was born in American Samoa to a Catholic father (Hawaii State Senator Mike Gabbard) and a Hindu mother. She moved to Hawaii when she was two and embraced Hinduism as a teenager and is well-versed in the scriptures.  Gabbard says her faith will be an asset in Congress, where she hopes to work on war veterans’ affairs, environmental issues, and cultivating a closer relationship between US and India.  In a statement released after her victory, Gabbard acknowledged that her election would be an inspiration to Hindus across America who feel diffident about having a different religion.

What is admirable about the 2012 elections is that it brings a multitude of interesting firsts for women in Congress. At least 20 women will serve in the Senate and at least 76 in the House.  there is  the first Asian-American woman in the Senate, the first Hindu-American in Congress and Wisconsin elected Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who is the first openly gay person in the US Senate.

with regards – S. Sampathkumar.
11th Nov. 2012.

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