Lotus to Potus: Indian diaspora weighs in on Joe Biden's pick Kamala Harris

The fact that Harris identifies herself primarily as black despite her Indian heritage from her mother’s side was a matter of disappointment to some Indians who felt there should be no reason for celebration for India.

WASHINGTON: Indians and Indian-Americans weighed in on Kamala Harris, with vigorous discussions breaking out on various forums on the extent of her “Indianness” and whether she would make the transition from “Lotus to Potus,” the name Kamala meaning lotus, and Potus the acronym for President of the United States.

The fact that Harris identifies herself primarily as black despite her Indian heritage from her mother’s side was a matter of disappointment to some Indians who felt there should be no reason for celebration for India.

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"That day when a little girl from Oaktown became the first black woman to be a major-party vice-presidential nominee... So incredibly proud of you, sis!" her sister Maya Harris tweeted soon after Joe Biden announced his pick, lending weight to the black identity the sisters embrace.

Indian right wing analysts flagged this. "Dear Indian Media, I know this is hard but please avoid ‘Kamala Harris - Indian pride’ Template. She does not care for this appropriation/endorsement and you end up looking like fools," cautioned Sunanda Vashist, an Indian-American political commentator.

But other Indian-Americans who also balance American citizenship and Indian heritage celebrated one of theirs rising up the political sweepstakes.

"The most excited person I talked to today was my Indian mom. Because she cannot wait to vote for Vice President Kamala Devi Harris," said Preet Bharara, the former US Attorney from Manhattan, spelling out Harris' full official name. And from Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley: "The fact that Democrats picked the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants for VP tells you what we stand for. Kamala Harris went to Howard and rose up through hard work. She represents a multi-racial, multi-cultural future for America."

Howard University, Harris’ alma mater, is a predominantly black institution in Washington DC.

Still, the prospect of having a PotUS and Lotus in the White House both excited and amused many although the results in the elections still 82 days away are far from forgone despite Biden’s commanding lead in many pre-poll surveys.


By Wednesday morning, the hashtag #nastywoman was trending in the US in response to President Trump’s repeated use of the term for Harris. "Any woman who opposes Donald Trump gets called a #nastywoman. But mark my words: if he tries to treat Kamala Harris the way he’s treated all those other women, she will eat him for lunch," wrote SiriusXM radio host Joe Madison.

Poll pundits meanwhile were looking up Indian-American population in various states, particularly swing states, to assess the possible outcome of Biden's Harris pick, although the black vote is significantly larger.

Still, in several battleground states that were decided by narrow margins in 2016, Indian-Americans can be a deciding factor. Although the largest concentration of 500,000 plus Indian-Americans are in Democratic strongholds California and New York-New Jersey, there are more than 100,000 Indian-Americans in toss-up states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

Even Texas, a traditionally solid red state, is said to be in play in 2020 with polls showing Trump and Biden running neck and neck. Texas has nearly 300,000 Indian-Americans.

Although her Indian heritage did not appear to be a major factor in Biden's choice, there are significant Indian votes in some key battle ground states, besides the fact that Indian-Americans are the best-educated and highest-earning ethnic cohort in America and have lately become politically assertive and putting in campaign bucks.

"There are a lot of Indian-American voters in this country, including in states that appear to be in play," noted George Conway, a Never-Trumper whose wife KellyAnne Conway is a Trump aide, while joking, "maybe he will pose for a chicken tikka masala taco bowl pic."
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