• Aslam Abdullah

Texas-22. The race is getting steamy


Dr. Muqtedar Khan, a Political science professor at the University of Delaware and an immigrant from Hyderabad, India, recently interviewed Sri Preston Kulkarni running for congressional district-22 of Texas on his show that he calls Khanversation.

It reminded me of the interview a Bollywood actor, Akshay Kumar, had with Indian Prime Minister Modi. Kumar asked Modi about his favorite fruit. "Mango," responded the PM. Of course, the country was witnessing a fallen economy and law and order situation. Communal tensions were rife, and the lynching of Muslims had become common. Yet, the Indian actor was keen to know about Modi's favorite fruit as if the solution to India's problem lies in Modi's choice of fruit.

Khan was also keen to know Kulkarni's favorite dish and the famous actor of Bollywood and his liking of cricket. Does it matter to voters who are serious about their representation in US Congress? Why is Kulkarni accepting the money from those who have supported a fascist ideology in India and the US? Why are his backers include those who finance groups in India who lynch people and openly ask their supporters to shoot them? Has he attended any of the meetings of these groups in the US? Will he provide the followers of these ideological groups a foothold in his staff and open opportunities to gain legitimacy in Congress? Will he return the money to them? Will he have a proper representation of Muslims in his Washington staff? Will he stand for justice for the people of Kashmir? Like his Democratic leaders, such as Bernie Sanders, Will he call for Kashmir's right to self-determination? Will he hold congressional hearings on the intervention of Hindutva forces in the US election, and will he investigate the financial support these groups provide to hate mongers in India?

These questions are relevant to more than 24,000 Muslim voters, especially those who are of Indian origin and who have observed the influence of Hindutva sponsored money in the promotion of violence against them?

But the Kahnversation was not about these issues. There were two questions about his connection with RSS and his presence in the Howdy Modi event. Khan did not ask him why he was not with the protestors against Modi's visit outside the arena? Why did not raise the issue of the violation of human rights with the Indian delegation when inside? Kulkarni very cleverly equated his presence at the ISNA convention with his meeting with Modi. ISNA is a national body of Muslims and stands for human rights. Modi is a foreign leader accused of butchering Muslims in Gujarat and presiding over a regime that has refused to respect Muslims' human rights in Kashmir and India.

His question about the RSS was meaningless. Even a sixth-grader knows that receiving money from a foreign entity for electioneering is illegal. Asking a problem with an obvious answer was a mockery of viewers intelligence.

Questions about Kulkarni's governance values brought the most fun part of the conversation. The Democratic candidate, instead of presenting his party's position on this issue, said that was building a coalition of Hindus, Muslims, and others, for the first time in Texas history. He is not familiar with the history of Houston. MJ Khan, a Muslim candidate, won an election for City council based on a coalition of people all faith. He gained 53.2% of the vote against Terry McConn in the highest turn out of voters.

Moreover, the alliance takes place on values, not on political expediency. There is nothing common between Hindutva forces and the rest of America. These forces are closer to White supremacists, racist bigots and hate mongers. If anyone wants to see an example of their governance style, they can study India under their rule during the last six years and under Modi in 2002.

At the end of the interview, Khan almost endorsed him and hoped that Washington would offer both of them an opportunity to work together.

The interview was shallow, and it was clear from the first question that Khan was trying to build a positive image of Kulkarni. Khan is a strong voice against Hindutva forces when he talks about India, but he was weak, disoriented, and nervous in this interview. As said by one of the viewers, "he was following a written script."

The voters in TX-22 are independent and intelligent. Over 65 percent of voters are graduates or up. They know what is in the best interest of their country and community. In democracies, people take different positions based on their understanding. Differences of opinions are suitable for a healthy polity. But one must make a distinction between propaganda and an educated opinion. Khan's interview comes in the category of free commercial for Kulkarni.

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