The United States of America, the world’s most powerful nation, goes to the polls in November 2020. Naturally speculations run high- despite the Covid 19 or Wuhan Virus pandemic that is raging around the world- whether the Democrats can wrest power from the sitting President. In 2016, Donald Trump had beaten Hillary Clinton to win the Presidency for the Republicans. Going by his recent speeches, he seems confident of being re-elected later this year.
At one time Bernie Sanders was way ahead in the Democrats race to be their candidate for President. However, some months ago he fell by the wayside. Joe Biden, a former Vice President in the Obama regime, has recently been declared the Democrats choice to fight President Trump.
In what perhaps could be a masterstroke, if things fall the Democrats way, Biden has chosen California Senator, Kamala Harris to be his running mate. This is the first time a person of Indian origin has ever been considered for such high office in the US. Clearly, Biden hopes to grab the African American and Indian American votes with Ms Harris being of multi-racial parentage. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a Tamilian Hindu, was born in Madras in India ( then a British Colony) while her father Donald Harris, who later became a Professor in Stanford University, was born in Jamaica in the West Indies ( again a British Colony). Kamala’s mother had migrated to the US to pursue her further studies in 1959. The couple met in California in the early 60’s, got married and Kamala, their first child, was born in Oakland, Ca in 1964. To her credit, Kamala Harris has had an outstanding career to reach where she is today.
It was amusing to see the reactions amongst many in India, especially in Tamilnadu when news came that Kamala Harris would be the VP nominee for the Democrats. Journalists scurried off to get scoops on her ” roots” in India; and how much she liked Indian culture etc etc. They did not forget to say she liked Tamilnadu’s favourite food of idlis and dosas. They sought interviews with assorted relatives and family friends to recall how Kamala was as a kid , and how much she had grown as a person.
But even as we say ” Vanakkam, Ms Harris” ( “Hello” in Tamil), we can’t lose sight of the fact that up until now, she hasn’t been particularly vocal about her Indian parentage. Indeed, more often than not, she has spoken of her Black ancestry. Her mother too brought up Kamala and her sister Maya, to see themselves as Black women. The first reaction that she was also of Indian origin came as a surprise to many African Americans.
Her left leanings may not get her the support of many Indian Americans . It certainly won’t get the support of many in India who perceive her as being against Indian interests. In 2019, she opposed the Indian Government’s stand when it came to Kashmir. She assured those who wanted Special Status to Kashmir to continue that their voices would be heard. When the Government of India brought in the Citizen Amendment Bill, she was one of those who supported the opponents of the Bill.
Indian Americans constitute just 1 % of the 153 million American voters but have a strong presence in States like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Traditionally, large numbers of Indian Americans have voted for the Democrats. In recent years the relationship between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the US President Donald Trump have made many re-look at their voting options. The Howdy Modi event in Houston, Texas in September 2019 attended by President Trump saw over 50,000 Indian Americans gather there from different parts of the United States. The voter has to decide fast, as the months rush by. November 2020 is not far away.
Come November what counts for Kamala Harris will be how many people in the United States vote for Biden and her. What her new found fans say in Tamilnadu about Kamala Mami – who is by no means the conventional Mylapore Mami – counts for nothing!