US Republicans launch Congressional Hindu Caucus

Advertisement

US Republican lawmakers have launched a Congressional Hindu Caucus that will be the second but largest yet for championing causes and issues related to the community of Hindu Americans. “Today I am so excited to announce the official launch of the Congressional Hindu Caucus in the US Congress,” Elise Stefanik, who is the fourth-ranking member of the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, said on Wednesday at an event organised by Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, a leading Indian-American fundraiser for the party and especially former President Donald Trump. This caucus is his initiative and has been in the making for some time. This was the second congressional caucus launched to represent Hindu Americans, who are largely Indian-descent Americans who are increasingly choosing to identify themselves by their religion rather than their country of origin.

But it also touts itself as a representative of Sikh, Jain and Buddhist communities. The caucus, which is chaired by first-term Democratic Congressman Shri Thanedar, ran into controversy off the block as Sikh Americans, who run a well-funded lobbying effort of their own, challenged its claim to represent them. It hasn’t generated much support among lawmakers either. Stefanik’s Hindu caucus is off to a flying start in comparison. She read out a list of 10 or so fellow Republican lawmakers who, she said, had volunteered to join the caucus but were not all present. One of them was Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis. She came to the event to personally convey her regrets at not being able to attend.

“I have a growing Indian community in my district,” she said when asked by this reporter for her reason for joining the caucus. “We have a Hindu temple which I go to annually to celebrate, whether it’s Diwali or some of the other holidays. And I really built a great relationship with the Hindu community and want to be able to help particularly now because of the very strategic time relationship between the US and India.” Indian-Americans are a growing community with widely acknowledged financial clout with their way-above median household incomes. Their political clout has been on the ascendance as well, mostly for their donations, although many of them are also running for political offices from city councils to Congress to the White House.

Advertisement

Increasingly now, they have wanted to be identified as Hindu Americans, which grants them constituency claims over Hindus from the Caribbeans, Nepal, Bangladesh and American converts. Their numbers are estimated to be, as claimed at the launch event, at around 6 million, which is at the least 1.5 million more than the number of Indian-Americans, which is a widely accepted estimate. Kumar, the man behind this caucus. shot to fame in the India-US world when he launched a campaign in 2013 to lobby US authorities to grant a visa to Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, reversing their decision to rescind it over the riots in the state. Although Kumar fell out of favour with Modi very soon, he had moved on to find a new person and cause to support: Donald Trump. “This caucus will support legislation and issues important to Hindu Americans,” Kumar said at the launch of the Congressional Hindu Caucus.