The Indian American community has long been a vital part of the fabric of the United States, contributing to various fields and enriching the nation's cultural diversity.
This community's journey is a century-old tale filled with dreams, ambitions, and the pursuit of a more prosperous life.
From the early settlers to the influential figures of today, Indian Americans have navigated challenges and opportunities to make significant strides in American society.
The initial group of Indian immigrants came to the US in the late 1800s and early 1900s, mainly working as farmers in California.
These early settlers travelled great distances, leaving their native land behind to seek the opportunities offered by the American dream.
However, this journey was far from smooth. The early immigrants faced numerous challenges, from the harsh realities of manual labour to the sting of racial discrimination.
Yet, they persevered, their resilience echoing in the fields they tilled and the communities they built.
One of the several areas that the Indian diaspora has progressed in is the political arena.
Several notable figures have achieved unprecedented success, inspiring millions within the Indian American community.
This rise is a testament to the assimilation of Indian Americans into American society, without losing their unique identity or heritage.
Nothing exemplifies this more than the rise of Vivek Ramaswamy, as a Republican candidate of Indian origin for the 2024 US presidential elections.
Ramaswamy is a tech entrepreneur and author, and as he himself states in speeches, proud of his Hindu heritage and culture. And anybody who has any knowledge of the US political scenario will tell you that it is both a tricky and risky path to chart.
Now given, America does not have any dearth of politicians of Indian origin. And a lot of them come from Hindu families.
But most of them had converted to Christianity, so when they entered the political arena, they had something in common and to resonate with the 79.5 per cent of Americans who are Christians.
Only three elected representatives in Congress have been practising Hindus.
One of them, Tulsi Gabbard, tried to run for the presidency in 2020 but had to bow out in the primaries as a Democrat.
Democrats are far more liberal on religious lines than Republicans, the party Ramaswamy is running for in the primaries.
Yet, he has not backed off from flaunting his culture and religion, and surprisingly, has been better for it.
In the Republican Party, evangelicals remain gatekeepers. Their influence is profound, and their support is often seen as essential for any candidate seeking success within the party.
This makes Ramaswamy's rise all the more intriguing and unprecedented. Unlike previous Hindu politicians who felt the need to convert to Christianity to resonate with the majority, Ramaswamy has chosen to embrace his Hindu heritage openly.
This decision could have been a political risk, but instead, it has become a defining strength of his campaign.
Ramaswamy's open embrace of his Hindu faith has not alienated him from evangelical Christians; rather, it has allowed him to connect with them on a deeper level.
By being true to his beliefs and not shying away from his heritage, he has demonstrated authenticity, a quality that resonates with many voters. His message is not one of division but of shared values and common ground.
He has not merely relied on his authenticity; he has actively courted the evangelical vote. Ramaswamy has engaged with Christian voters, speaking their language and addressing their concerns.
His approach is novel, expanding the idea of America as a Judeo-Christian country to one that includes Hindus like him. This inclusive vision has struck a chord with some evangelicals, who see in him a fellow believer in time-tested religious traditions.
Ramaswamy's campaign is characterised by a strong stance against woke capitalism and a fervent belief in meritocracy, echoing the political strategies that former President Donald Trump employed during his time in office.
In his book, “Woke Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam,” Ramaswamy criticises what he sees as the hypocrisy of corporations using social justice causes as a cover.
He calls for a merit-based system, a sentiment that resonates with Trump's populist approach. By challenging ideologies he deems "cult-like," Ramaswamy aligns with conservative values, creating a connection with evangelical voters, much like Trump did.
Ramaswamy's opposition to affirmative action and his advocacy for rewarding individuals based on talents and achievements mirror Trump's emphasis on merit over identity. Both politicians see these policies as divisive rather than equalising.
Ramaswamy's proposals, such as abolishing the Department of Education and supporting school choice, further reflect his alignment with Trump's ideology. These positions underscore his commitment to empowering individuals and reducing what he perceives as indoctrination, resonating with a base that values traditional American principles.
The results of his policies and stance are evident, as he is standing at third place nationally in the primary field in the FiveThirtyEight polling aggregate, behind former Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Ironically, one issue that might become a thorn in his way, is his stance on the current Indian government.
He praises Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, economic policies, and unapologetic embrace of Indian national identity, and sees a model for American national pride. However, this stance may present challenges.
Some detractors and opponents might attempt to use Ramaswamy's support negatively, influenced by misinformation and maligning of India's image by vested parties.
Ramaswamy's task is to navigate these perceptions and align his admiration for nationalistic policies with American values. The relationship between the US and India is complex, and Ramaswamy's support for strengthening this partnership may become a contentious point in his campaign.
His ability to articulate his position, address misconceptions, and focus on shared democratic values and strategic importance will be crucial.
In a political landscape increasingly influenced by global connections, Ramaswamy's stance on the Indian government represents both an opportunity and a challenge, reflecting the evolving nature of American politics in an interconnected world.
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