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US polls: Desis divided over loss of Modi sympathiser

November 10, 2012 10:37 IST
Indo-American Muslims hail the defeat of Republican Joe Walsh, who demanded a visa for Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. George Joseph reports   

The defeat of Joe Walsh (Republican) from the 8th District of Illinois has become a divisive issue for the Indian-American community.

Walsh was the first United States lawmaker who demanded that Washington revoke the denial of a visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. 

Indian Americans For Freedom, consisting of Hindu groups, supported Walsh during the Congressional election. Islamic groups came forward against Walsh and his supporters.

Walsh, a Tea Party supporter, holds strong views on many issues including abortion, which he opposes. He lost to Tammy Duckworth, who has an Asian background.

The Indian American Muslim Council lauded Walsh's defeat. It said, "Walsh's defeat is a tribute to the tenacity of the district, with a high concentration of South Asians who rejected fear tactics and hate-mongering by Super PACs (political action committees) and special interest groups."

"Indian Americans For Freedom poured large sums of money into the campaign with ads proclaiming 'If you love Modi, send Joe Walsh to Congress.' The fact that such an affinity for Modi and the divisiveness he represents backfired at the ballot box is a reassuring sign about the future of pluralism," it said.

The IAFF reacted, saying it "regrets the loss of Congressman Joe Walsh from US House, a man who deeply cared for our country and for the generations to come… It is only leaders like him with long-term vision who can stop the US from becoming another Greece."

The IAFF statement claimed that Walsh performed better than other candidates in the nearby districts because of the IAFF'S efforts. It also added. "There are some elements in the Indian-American community who wish to make the Walsh race to become a Hindu-Muslim religious issue. IAFF strongly condemns these attempts. IAFF respects all religions and speaks out against the radical elements in all religions."

Dr Bharat Berai, a Walsh supporter, said, "Walsh's opposition was against radicals in the Islamic community. His loss in the election has nothing to do with his stand on Chief Minister Modi's visa."

Dr Shaik Ubaid of the Indian Minorities Advocacy Network said, "Modi's supporters in the US continue to sully the image of India and continue to do immense harm to the Indian-American community in the US as well as to India."

"They should let their conscience awaken and show remorse and repent. Hindutva supporters should be marginalised and expelled from management positions in Hindu temples and from the trade and professional organisations of Indian Americans."

Syed Taj loses in Michigan

Dr Syed Taj lost his bid for Congress from Michigan's 11th District. After the defeat of Hansen Clarke in the primary, many in the community had hoped Taj would fill up the vacuum.

Little-known Republican candidate Kerry Bentivolio (1,82,603 votes) defeated Taj (1,59,780 votes).

Bentivolio, 61, is a libertarian-leaning Tea Party favourite who served in Vietnam and Iraq. He is a former teacher who owns Old Fashion Santa, where he impersonates Santa Claus and raises his reindeer on his ranch.

Taj will remain active in politics.

"It goes without saying that I am disappointed," he said in a statement. 

"However, I am not disappointed in the campaign that we have run. We faced a tough map and in spite of this disadvantage worked our district hard and left nothing on the table… I will remain a tireless advocate for job growth, health-care access and affordability, Social Security and Medicare, and college affordability."

Taj's campaign manager Natalie Mosher said, "It is my hope that our future Congressman will look beyond ideology and be open and transparent while being a voice for everyone in the district -- from his fellow Tea Partiers to traditional Republicans, independents, and Democrats that all live in the 11th District and deserve a voice in the process."
George Joseph in Illinois