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Hindu-American Tulsi wins Democratic primary in Hawaii

By George Joseph
August 12, 2012 20:35 IST
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Tulsi Gabbard, 31, a Hindu American, has won the Democratic Primary from the second Congressional District in Hawaii.

Gabbard is set to create history becoming the first Hindu ever to be elected to the US Congress in November, as there is virtually little opposition to her in a predominantly Democratic district.

She got 55.1 percent votes polled as to 34.3 percent won by her main opponent Mufi Hannemann.

"I am privileged to be able to work for the people of Hawaii in whatever capacity," she said after her rival conceded defeat.

She has not visited India yet, "No, not in body, but in mind and heart. I look forward to visiting India as a member of the US Congress. As a Vaishnava, I especially look forward to visiting the holy sites of Vrindavan," she had told earlier.

Currently, she is a city council member in Honolulu.

The primary winner is assured to be elected in November, as the district is heavily Democratic. Initially, her main opponent, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann led her in the polls with 45 points.

Though a practicing Hindu and a strict vegetarian, she is not an Indian.

Her father Mike Gabbard, who is a state senator, is from American Samoa. Her mother Carol Porter Gabbard, a white American, is a practicing Hindu. Her father is a Catholic.

Dalip Singh Saund, the first Indian to be elected to the Congress in the 60s, was a Sikh. Bobby Jindal was a Christian. It seems destiny has chosen Tulsi to represent the Hindus in the Congress.

She promises to be a representative for all the Indians in the US.

"Based on my strong affinity for India and Indian culture, as well as my warm love for the country and its people, I will always make myself available to hear the concerns of the Indian Diaspora and do my best to be of assistance."

She said her religious belief created only minor issues in the campaign and that she had ignored it.

As for the major issues in the election, she is clear, "The economy and jobs. Here in Hawai'i, people have a hard time making ends meet. And of course protecting the environment is very important to the people of Hawaii'.

"The natural beauty and purity of our islands has a very spiritualising effect on our souls. And also, tourism is Hawaii's main economic engine, and our beautiful environment is the main reason visitors come. And to that end, I will be making a big effort to reduce the burdensome visa restrictions on visitors from India and throughout South Asia and Asia," she said.

Tulsi was born in 1981 in Leloaloa, American Samoa, the fourth of five children to the Gabbards. At the age of two, the family moved to Hawai'i, also the birthplace of President Obama.

Hawaii is comprised of a majority of Christians with a significant number of Buddhists (10-15 percent of the population). The number of Hindus living in Hawaii is relatively small, with only two Hindu temples in the entire state, the Iskcon Temple on Oahu and the Aadheenam Temple on Kauai.


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