2020 Presidential Election: Debate on Hindu-American Issues

San Francisco:  A coalition of Hindu American organizations joined hands to conduct a first of its kind debate to discuss issues relevant to the Hindu American community in the upcoming presidential election.  On Sunday, October 18, 2020, six Hindu Americans, split evenly between the two presidential candidates, met virtually to debate topics as they related to the Hindu American community in the following three broad areas: domestic policy, foreign policy, and overall party stance.  For each of the three areas, the debaters presented positions favoring their candidate as well as opposing the other candidate.   

The debaters, all of whom had demonstrated a commitment to the Hindu American community through their activism or spirit, were vocal supporters of the candidate they were representing.

The debaters for the Trump side were Jay Kansara, Srilekha Reddy Palle, and Utsav Chakrabarti.  The debaters for the Biden side were Nish Acharya, Tushar Dhayagude, and Niki Shah.   

In an active and, at times, very passionate debate, the debaters discussed, among many others, sub-topics such as the interactions and commitment of each candidate to the Hindu American community, President Trump’s presence at the Howdy Modi event last September, the Hilal-i-Pakistan award presented to Candidate Biden by the Pakistani government, and the commitment of each candidate to helping Hindu and Sikh persecuted minorities in Afghanistan.   

Jay Kansara, who served for nine years as Director of Government Relations at the Hindu American Foundation, spoke in depth about his experience of working with the Trump administration to foster a closer working relationship between the Trump administration and the Hindu American community.  “I must say that the Trump administration is far more inclusive of Hindu thought or Hindu perspectives than the alternate, than the Obama-Biden ever was,” said Mr. Kansara.

The other two debaters to represent the Trump side were Srilekha Reddy Palle, the Political Director for the American Hindu Coalition and an active leader in the Trump campaign and in the Republican party, and Utsav Chakrabarti, an active contributor to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and to representatives of the Human Rights Commission at the United Nations.   

Nish Acharya, who was appointed by President Obama to be a Senior Advisor to the US Secretary of Commerce and Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and is currently a Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress, spoke about the similarities between the Democratic party in the US and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s platform in India.  “The reality is, I would like to point out, that the BJP agenda in India actually is fairly progressive, in line with the Democratic Party.  So when you look at some of Prime Minister Modi’s biggest agenda items…these are all efforts to progressively, economically, and socially empower Indians from the bottom everywhere and connect them to society so they have a chance for success and survival…That is an agenda of progressive economics that we all see on the Biden side,” said Mr. Acharya when questioned about the past relationship between the then Senator Biden and Pakistan as well as the excess foreign aid given to Pakistan under the Obama-Biden administration.

The other two debaters for the Biden side were Niki Shah, a member of the Hindu Americans for Biden and a National Co Chair for South Asians for Biden, and Tushar Dhayagude, an active contributor to the political process by writing opinions and rebuttals.

The event was sponsored by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the Hindu American Political Action Committee (HAPAC), HinduPACT, HinduVote, and the Coalition of Hindus in North America (CoHNA).

The full video of the debate can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ULUchW4ubs