A Hindu nationalist in the House?

By Razib Khan 32 Comments

Slate has published a transparent “hit piece” on Preston Kulkarni, who is likely to win a seat for the Democrats in Houston. I say hit piece because it doesn’t seem deeply reported, but sourced from Pieter Friedrich, who I have mostly seen online as a rather inflammatory activist, not a dispassionate scholar.

A reporter in the area, Chad Washington, notes that believe it or not, people in and around this area of suburban Houston are not very interested in the fact Kulkarni might have “ties” to the Hindu Right.

There are two issues I want to highlight here as to why I’m putting this post up (which to be frank does amplify what I think shouldn’t be an issue at all):

– The demand that people denounce all sorts of things that they claim to barely even understand in the interests of solidarity and popular fronts is pretty ridiculous. Kulkarni is aiming to represent suburban Houston in the House. His opinions on Indian politics are unimportant. There are cases where Muslims are asked to ritually denounce everything under the sun and everyone they may have shared a stage with. That’s bullshit. And this is bullshit.

– It is strange to me how the “Left” can so naturally use the language of xenophobia to attack xenophobia. Here is the title: “Why Are Democrats Backing a House Candidate With Reportedly Shady Foreign Ties?” Foreign ties? I mean, his last name is {{{Kulkarni}}}. He worships elephants! His white mother married a foreigner. What’s wrong with her!

Obviously, the Indian American writer of the hit piece isn’t anti-Indian as such, but this opportunistic recourse to this rhetoric and guilt-by-association won’t end well.

Update: OK the Republicans/Christian Right are now after him.

8+

32 Replies to “A Hindu nationalist in the House?”

  1. “this opportunistic recourse to this rhetoric and guilt-by-association won’t end well.”

    The actual promoters of Pieter Friedrich, a shady activist, is a group ostensibly comprised of Muslim, Indian Americans led by a Neurologist Sheik Ubaid.

    Sheik Ubaid himself seems like a garden variety Muslim activist who’s given a conducive environment in the USA to hide his Islamist agenda under a left-liberal rhetoric. He has been railing against France and Macron on his Twitter TL recently. He usually refers to BJP as the Hindu ISIS.

    This won’t end well for Muslims. Its a double edged sword which will hurt them more. If ordinary Indian Americans may have familial ties back in India to BJP (an ordinary right wing party in democratic India), an analysis into ordinary Muslim Americans would reveal even more incriminating ties to much more problematic groups.

    This may even lead to big rupture amongst American Hindus and (desi) Muslims who until now have gotten along pretty well. Not a good trend at all.

    1. “This may even lead to big rupture amongst American Hindus and (desi) Muslims who until now have gotten along pretty well. ”

      BTW

      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-54640998

      US election 2020: Indian and Pakistani diaspora rally together

      “But according to the survey, Indian Americans “do not consider US-India relations to be one of the principal determinants of their vote choice in this election”. Instead, like many other Americans, they view the economy and healthcare as the two most important issues.”

  2. Clicked on some of the links in the Slate piece – third rate articles on the lines of “Is Hitler still alive?” or “Nazi base on the moon”. I guess the American electorate’s distrust of non-believer (non-Christian and Atheist) politicians sets the bar very low on the required standards for such articles.

  3. Sheik U times makes sense

    there is clearly underlying haleem socialist agenda. Like I said, islamists, both soft and hardcore have come together with radical leftists in unholy matrimony. The end result will be this type of nonsense

  4. Kulkarni stood from my area. He ran a good campaign. Curios that while he was running there was no such allegation, and looked like a standard democrat candidate. TBH the republican incumbent actually tried to reach out to desis (lot of Modi-Trump stuff) because Kulkarni was in fray.

    Also Kulkarni in his campaign, sort of downplayed his desiness (since he was being attacked) by trying 2 reach out other asians in the area, and highlighting that he is related to Sam Houston thru his mother.

  5. If you want to fit this story into a coherent narrative, start with the fact that whether or not Kulkarni as any meaningful sentiments in favor of militant Hindu Nationalism (he probably doesn’t), there is a quite plausible case that some of his financial backers do.

    No politician thinks too hard about rejecting money or support from anyone who backs him or her, and isn’t currently asking for much or anything in return.

    Why would a far right wing Hindu in Texas back an Indian-American Democrat?

    Because a lot of non-white people in the U.S. (my inlaws included) whose views are far more conservative than those of the Democratic Party as a whole are violently unwelcome in the Republican Party because they aren’t white, may be foreigners, and may either not be Christian or may not be the right kind of Christian. When fellow donors at a Republican campaign event might want you dead or deported and don’t care what cops do to you, Democrats who are leftists to excess in your eyes look good by comparison.

    The Democratic Party is a much bigger tent than the Republican Party, and its non-white members, on average, are significantly more conservative than its white members (who are disproportionately non-Christian with a sprinkling of mostly quite liberal white Christians). So, if you have money and resources, and want political influence, you back co-ethics seeking office on the theory that ethnic ties might be more important than partisan ones (doubtfully true, but many immigrants think this is so).

    The same analysis applies to why there are lots of Muslims in the Democratic party relative to the Republican Party. If the party leader of the GOP is overtly anti-Muslim it probably isn’t the right party for you, even if your views on most issues line up with it more closely.

    1. jindal initially and haley throughout her career got a lot of indian backing. “representation” indians are moderately liberal on social issues in the USA.

      that being said, if you depict the indian gov. as nazi, then a lot of indian americans are pro-nazi.

      1. Yeah. I don’t know if Lefties/Islamists actually believe that RSS-BJP is a fringe/far-right organization, or they just cynically exploit that view for political gain.

        I want to say the latter, but I’ve learned the hard way is that humans of all ideologies always dream that their ideology will triumph and every movement to the contrary is the result of a conspiracy or a dupe.

        For socialists, that’s “false consciousness.” For American rightists, that’s “Portland is only [a nuthouse] cause small minority of activists did it,” which someone actually said to me today. And for Indian Lefties and their foreign friends, it’s “Indians had the social values of Brooklynites, but the evil BJP ruined it all.”

        Eventually you have to grow up and realize that a group of people may, by its own agency, come to a conclusion different from yours. At that point, you should either adjust your views, or disassociate yourself from that group. For my part, I’m never returning to Portland in any permanent capacity.

        1. Ditto.

          I could live with the fact that since no one outside of India really gives two shits about Hindu-nationalism, u need to overblow the threat in US. Its par for the course.

          But on the other hand, if they really believe this stuff, i am more worried for their mental faculties.

          1. pretty sure people here must have heard of duckduckgo.com. Most never heard of it. I know a close relative who is assistant professor in maths who has never heard of it.So its not just about education. Here people dont take a hypothesis until they have done some preliminary attempt to debunk it their own minds at least once. Most never do that. Hence ads, smears etc work. The market place of human mind is such that the initial frame becomes the default frame. There is no reason to use google for search. Its just most of us do it anyway. And most of us are uninformed about most things, we just dont have time or interest or cant make the effort.

    2. “Because a lot of non-white people in the U.S. (my inlaws included) whose views are far more conservative than those of the Democratic Party as a whole are violently unwelcome in the Republican Party because they aren’t white, may be foreigners, and may either not be Christian or may not be the right kind of Christian. When fellow donors at a Republican campaign event might want you dead or deported and don’t care what cops do to you, Democrats who are leftists to excess in your eyes look good by comparison.”

      Bingo! You hit the nail on the head.

  6. “It appears the Texas Democrat Party not only embraces rule of mob/chaos/violence here & abroad. Imagine the outrage if it was a GOP candidate supported by a violent, racist, extremist group? Hypocrisy is the calling card of the Democrat (Socialist) Party.”
    https://twitter.com/AllenWest/status/1321179543512645632

    Not very good look for democracts. Not sure how Kulkarni got through ranks despite supporting religious extremists RSS back home.

  7. Razib Khan says:

    ***
    It is strange to me how the “Left” can so naturally use the language of xenophobia to attack xenophobia. Here is the title: “Why Are Democrats Backing a House Candidate With Reportedly Shady Foreign Ties?” Foreign ties? I mean, his last name is {{{Kulkarni}}}. He worships elephants! His white mother married a foreigner. What’s wrong with her!
    ***

    That is because the “left” is not about principles, it is about pure power. In the UK any ethnics who join the conservative party (who are not even that “conservative” as they are the ones who legalised gay marriage, have overseen the largest immigration in British history etc etc) and are MPs for them are ridiculed as “coconuts” or “racial gatekeepers”

    On a side note, there is apparently a new militant group in Kashmir called “People’s Anti-fascist Front” which I find quite smart as they are tapping into Western psychosis about fascism to gain support from Western peoples.

    The Quint reports:

    “On the dark web, a new terror group named ‘People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF)’ released a forty-three second video showing an arrow hitting a Swastika sign. Three terrorists wearing masks and brandishing AK-47 rifles appear in the video warning fresh terror attacks against those who help Indian security forces.”

    1. The radical haleem gang has learned to use secular labels. This is the benefit of allying with radical Western leftists who know the lingo of the West. Clever they are. I hope these terrorists are ruthlessly hunted and brought to justice, whether it is a deserved encounter or prison remains to be determined.

  8. Razib is flat-out wrong when he states that foreign ties do not matter. Congress decides on more than domestic policy. It can sanction countries – and overrule presidential vetoes. It obviously matters.

    That said, being affiliated with the Hindu right is a boon in my book, not a burden. But to claim it doesn’t matter is nonsensical. We’re not talking about the Slovenian parliament here. No other parliament in the world has as much power over international affairs as the US one.

    1. “Foreign ties” mostly don’t matter to rank and file American voters. Nobody in the Houston area aside from those of South Asian descent are going to know anything about the Hindu right or even care to know. Has no impact on any of their lives.

      And the office of President itself is far, far more important than Congress in defining and enacting US foreign policy objectives.

    2. Razib is flat-out wrong when he states that foreign ties do not matter.

      are you American? you sound like a moron who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    1. I’m not sure that’s accurate. Probably conservative parties in other Anglosphere countries are a lot closer to the Republican Party in spirit than the BJP is. I can think of the UK and Canada as examples. Not sure about Australia (know very little about its politics).

      The Republican Party is primarily an economically libertarian party that has been propelled into a socially/culturally conservative direction because of vote bank politics.
      The BJP on the other hand is primarily a socially/culturally conservative party that has, off and on, been propelled toward an economically libertarian direction because of the practical necessity to get rich donors on its side.
      When push comes to shove, the Republicans do what their corporatist wing desires and don’t give much of a damn about their socially conservative voting base.
      When push comes to shove, the BJP forgets about market economics and instead spends all its time and energy animating its culturally conservative voting base.

      So, there may be superficial similarities between these two parties, which reached a confluence when both Vajpayee and Bush II were in power, but it didn’t and couldn’t last. Even historically, the RSS (equivalent of the Christian Coalition, I think) preferred Nehruvian autarky to free market ideology.

      1. “When push comes to shove, the Republicans do what their corporatist wing desires and don’t give much of a damn about their socially conservative voting base.”

        That was probably true pre Trump.

      2. “The Republican Party is primarily an economically libertarian party that has been propelled into a socially/culturally conservative direction because of vote bank politics. . . . The BJP on the other hand is primarily a socially/culturally conservative party that has, off and on, been propelled toward an economically libertarian direction because of the practical necessity to get rich donors on its side.”

        This used to be true of the Republican Party (a.k.a. the GOP for “Grand Old Party”), but now, your description of the BJP is a very apt description of the current GOP.

        The GOP is now protectionist, opposed to business sought immigration including tech and health care workers, opposed to non-military infrastructure spending, sympathetic to the Cold War enemies of the U.S. (Russia, North Korea), admires China but sees it as a rival, antagonistic towards all of its traditional Western European allies, and actively antagonistic toward big technology companies at home and abroad. GOP priorities are increasing the clout of Evangelical Christianity, antagonizing Muslims at home and abroad unless they have oil (even in China), preserving white power, opposing feminism, making it harder to vote, opposing higher education and science, defending right wing private violence and law enforcement brutality to stop both crime, left wing protests and left wing politicians, protecting pro-slavery symbols and glorifying the slavery era and overt racists, persecuting homosexuals and transgender people, and reducing access to higher education for poor non-whites. Don’t vote for Democrats because they listen to scientists has become a standard stump speech line in 2020. The GOP does want to curtail government health care, welfare and retirement spending, encourage polluting industries and end energy and water conservation efforts and to reduce taxes on corporations and the rich, but some of that is almost an afterthought and it isn’t economic libertarianism.

        Is that a broad brush caricature? Sure. But a very different one from the GOP of thirty years ago. The GOP coalition has traded the educated professional/managerial class for white working class men without degrees. Big business used to be 100% in the GOP camp and now is split rather evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans in the rank and file used to talk about how they were smarter and knew more about economics than other people, now it is openly anti-intellectual and derides the notion that experts in any field should be listened to.

        This is new. In the link there is a chart showing two dimensional ideological position. The Democrats are in exactly the same place they were twenty years ago. The Republicans have moved dramatically from almost libertarian to far more authoritarian in ever increasingly large steps that started before Trump and have gotten bigger under Trump.

        1. You are quite right about the Trumpist wing of the Republican Party, but haven’t the solid legislative achievements of the past 4 years been in the traditional conservative/libertarian space rather than in the populist one? Like tax cuts and judges? (Granted, they weren’t able to repeal the ACA even in 2017-18.) The populist stuff it seems to me were either symbolical/rhetorical or happened through executive action, which can easily be rolled back if Trump is dethroned next week.

          What I’m saying is: that populist wing, which is comfortable with authoritarianism, definitely exists but it may be on a flimsier footing than Trump’s 2016 victory would suggest. Anyway, next week’s election outcome will shed more light. If Trump loses AND the Republicans lose big in the Senate, they may very well revert to a sort-of Reaganism, abandoning any thoughts of immigration hawkishness or protectionism.

          I do agree that there is a significant overlap between the Modi-dominated BJP and the Trump-dominated GOP because of their shared nationalist populism. My earlier comment referred to their respective pre-2016 avatars.

    1. @Saurav
      “Texas will take another couple of election cycle to turn purple. His loss not a surprise”

      More too it than just that, for all of Texas maybe, but the county (Fort Bend) Kulkarni’s is in, is pretty purple (if not leaning blue)

      It’s Harris County/Houston adjacent which leans democrat as well.

      Check out the unofficial results of the elections, Democrat candidates did really good here:

      https://results.enr.clarityelections.com/TX/Fort_Bend/106714/web.264614/#/summary

      Also he did better last time against the the incumbent, this time, he lost by a couple more percentage points than last:

      Current Eleciton 2020:

      Rep Troy Nehls 52.54%

      Dem Sri Preston Kulkarni 44.17%

      Last Election 2018:

      Rep Pete Olson 51.23%

      Dem Sri Preston Kulkarni 46.66%

      The 1st time Kulkarni ran, he had massive backing and effort from the democratic party, had a very motivated group of campaign volunteers, they worked canvassing the area, speaking to immigrant background citizens in their own languages, and going door to door even into the last hours before the election:

      https://theintercept.com/2018/10/17/sri-kulkarni-congress-texas/

      This time he even raised much more money than his opponent (3 or 4 times as much).

      Neither time the republican opponent put much effort into campaigning, Kulkarni had a better campaign, more money and more support, and better CV, and is even the descendant of the father of Texas himself, Sam Houston to boot (on his Mother’s side).

      Even the 1st time he ran, Democrats did really good in that area, there were a lot of straight ticket democrat votes, so his chances should of been better, not worse.

      I think his area and/or his election might be bit more complicated than what’s been portrayed,

      1. LOL, are bhai, i myself live in Harris and work in Fort Bend. There is my comment at the top of the thread on the same thing. Haha

        I remember his first campaign. Bombarded with all those FB ads. I didn;t follow his campaign this time around, and looking at the results felt it was more of the same.

        Agree something might be amiss, but i dont think it has to do with him being portrayed as Hindu nationalist (much as our woke-sters might want to think of) . Expecting folks of Harris/Fort Bend to even spell Hindu the right way would be tough. Forget Hindu nationalists. LOL

        1. I hear there is a strong Haleem gang prescense down there. That probably didn’t help, if he associated with Hindu nat

        2. @Saurav

          No way, We’re neighbors’ man! Nice, another Texan!

          And LOL, I did not realize you had already made comments earlier, especially about Kulkarni’s connection to Sam Houston, he’s Texas royalty!

          I agree with you Saurav, I don’t think it was due to any “woke” attacks on his Hindutva/RSS associations, that came too late, it didn’t come out till the week of early elections if I remember correctly, nobody knew or understood it, and by that time people were already making their choices.

          No, I just wanted to point out the pattern that he lost last time in 2018 to the republican incumbent (who barely did any campaigning), and this time to another republican who had less money and support and also barely did any campaigning.

          In this area, a lot of republican incumbents lost both in 2018 as well as in 2020, he seems to be one of the ones that didn’t luck out with the purple/blue changes.

          I’m just wondering what is it about him? I mean they were parading him around with Beto O Rourke (that guy needs an antiperspirant, his signature look is sweaty) as one of the bright new up and comers and the democrat party invested a lot of money and effort into him.

          The funny thing is that democrat candidates in this area that did not even get invested in by the democrat party, did so much better, and won their elections against the incumbents.

          @Warlock
          Even if it was the “Haleem gang” (I’m assuming you are referencing muslims ?), they supported Kulkarni in the 2018 election, he had different muslim groups fully endorsing him, and he still lost! It might have lost him a few more votes this time in 2020, but I think there is something else that lost him those elections.
          I’m just wondering what?!

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