Hindu Lawmaker Tulsi Gabbard Will Run for US Prez – Who Is She?
Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker from Hawaii in the US Congress, is considering a run for American presidency in 2020, according to sources close to her.
On Friday, 9 November, at a Medtronic conference in Los Angeles, eminent Indian-American Dr Sampat Shivangi introduced Gabbard, 37, and said that she could be the next president of the US in 2020. The brief statement was marked by a standing ovation, in the presence of the four-term Congresswoman from the 50th US State.
Gabbard, a Democrat, didn’t confirm that she would be running for president in 2020, but she didn’t deny it either.
Who Is Tulsi Gabbard?
Tulsi Gabbard is an American politician of the Democratic Party serving as the US Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district since 2013. Gabbard, who represents a constituency in Hawaii, is not of Indian descent and neither of her parents are Hindu, but she practises Hinduism.
Gabbard was born in 1981 in Leloaloa, American Samoa, the fourth of five children born to Carol and Mike Gabbard, a State Senator.
In 2002, Gabbard became the youngest person ever to be elected to the Hawaii State Legislative, and in 2012, she was elected to the US House. She went on to win the general election by nearly 80 points.
She is one of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress, and she was deployed with the Hawaii National Guard to Iraq in 2005 and Kuwait in 2009.
According to a report in New York Magazine, Gabbard became one of the most popular political figures after she broke with the Democratic Party establishment and endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton in 2016, even resigning as the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in order to be able to do so.
What’s Her Foreign Policy Stand Like?
In 2004, Gabbard volunteered to join the 29 Brigade of US soldiers when they were called to war in Iraq.
According to Gabbard’s website, “She (Gabbard) felt it was more important to stand in solidarity with her fellow soldiers than to climb the political ladder.”
However, Gabbard’s critics have questioned her views on foreign policy and her tolerance of dictators like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Gabbard came under attack after she met Assad in 2017.
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Trapper, she said that she hadn’t planned on meeting him but when the opportunity arose, she did, because she felt it was important.
“When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so, because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace. And that’s exactly what we talked about.”Tulsi Gabbard
Democratic leaders maintained silence on one of their leaders meeting a head of state who has been dubbed a war criminal by the US.
Then, in April 2017, Gabbard’s stand on the chemical attack in Syria raised eyebrows again.
According to an article in The Guardian, in 2015, Gabbard was among the Democrats who voted for restrictions on refugees entering the US from Syria and Iraq. She had also expressed “skepticism” about the widely held assertion that Assad’s government was behind chemical attacks in Syria.
A Modi Connection
After the 2002 Gujarat riots, the US government had denied a visa to Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time. Gabbard was one of the few to criticise the US government’s decision.
According to an article in Quartz, five months after Narendra Modi was elected prime minister of India, Gabbard opposed a resolution which called for “religious freedom and related human rights to be included in the United States-India Strategic Dialogue and for such issues to be raised directly with federal and state Indian government officials,” saying that it would weaken India-US relations.
In August 2014, Gabbard made it a point to meet Modi in New York after his Madison Square Garden speech and presented him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita that she swore by when she was elected.
Before that, in August 2014, speaking at a fundraising event for the BJP in Georgia, US, Gabbard had hailed Modi’s 2014 landslide victory and said, “People (of India) stood up, one by one by one by one, and said ‘we will demand that this change occurs’.”
(This profile of Ms Gabbard was originally published on 13 November 2018 and has been republished from The Quint's archives in light of the news of her running for presidency in 2020.)
(With inputs from The Guardian, New York Magazine, Washington Post and PTI)