Tulsi Gabbard’s past “financial ties” to the Sangh Parivar in America have come back to haunt the Democratic Party leader as she prepares to challenge US President Donald Trump in 2020, an announcement she made amid much fanfare last week.
“Tulsi Gabbard has extensive, financial ties with Hindu Right extremist groups. The Democrats, listen up, if you would not accept someone with white supremacist ties running on your ticket, you should not accept Gabbard either,” tweeted renowned Indologist Audrey Truschke, who is the Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University, Newark.
In investigative news reports shared by Truschke on her Twitter feed, it has been highlighted that “at least 105 current and former officers and members of US Sangh affiliates, and their families, have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gabbard’s campaign since 2011.”
“The Hindu American Foundation’s support for Gabbard- over $24,000 in 2017-18- is not an insubstantial amount, even in context of Gabbard’s total $1,394,524,” said a report in The Intercept.
According to a report in the investigative news portal The Sludge, Gabbard had been regularly endorsing internships at her Congress’ office for young men and women referred to by the Hindu American Foundation, an advocacy group in Washington DC.
The report highlights that Gabbard had been a “regular” at the events organised by Sangh affiliates across America since 2013, where she more often than not shared stage with leaders from the Overseas Friends of the BJP.
Known to be one of the primary backers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in US Congress when the then Gujarat CM was being internationally censured over his alleged complicity in 2002 riots, Gabbard reportedly opposed a resolution in US Congress, which concerned itself with religious discrimination. The Resolution 417, the latest action on which was taken in September 2014, was seen as being critical of India and urged the government to protect the country’s diversity.
So much so, that Kolkata-based daily The Telegraph billed Gabbard as “Sangh’s American mascot” in 2015.
She is said to have met Modi during the Indian PM’s visit in September 2014 and travelled to India at his invitation in December that year, when she is also believed to have met leaders from the Sangh Parivar.
Distancing in public, support in private
American media reports highlight that the 37-year-old Congresswoman started to distance herself from the Sangh affiliates, at least in public, operating in the US after she endorsed Vermont senator Bernie Sanders for presidency in 2016.
Another public posturing was made in 2018, when she withdrew herself from serving as the chair of the World Hindu Council, a conference of right-wing groups attended by RSS sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat among others, amid concerns of incendiary rhetoric by a few of the speakers at the event.
Tulsi Gabbard withdrew from the World Hindu Congress event, after initially agreeing to be the chairperson of the event. However, her support of her former backers has continued in private, alleged American media reports.
BJP leader Vijay Jolly, formerly the global convenor of party’s overseas unit, the OFBJP, says that he has known Gabbard as an ex-servicewoman with a “clean slate.”
"I know Tulsi Gabbard as a US Congresswoman from Hawaii. She has a clean slate and ex-servicewoman record of serving the US Establishment."
“A US Presidential nominee of Hindu beliefs and credentials would definitely be my first choice," says Jolly.
However, the BJP leader notes that Gabbard’s first “big challenge” was to win the Democratic Party nomination before she could go on challenge Trump.
(Note: In subsequent reaction to NH’s article, Hindu American Foundation (HAF)‘s Communications’ Director Mat McDermott said that HAF wasn’t associated with the Sangh Parivar in any way whatsoever).