Former diplomat Sri Kulkarni’s campaign for an open U.S. Congress seat representing the Houston area is one of the most watched in the country. Matched up against a conservative county sheriff and President Donald Trump ally, Kulkarni is hoping to carry the largest Asian American populated district in Texas to become the fifth Indian and fifth Hindu American member of Congress.
Kulkarni is uniting a multi-ethnic, multi-religious district, and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sees in Kulkarni a chance at flipping Texas to blue.
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But in August, a California based political operative, Pieter Friedrich, took aim at Kulkarni. Too many Houstonian Indian Americans supporting Kulkarni were also supportive of the Indian government, Friedrich alleged. And only a week later, Friedrich leveled a nearly identical attack on Democratic Michigan State House member Padma Kuppa, the first Hindu and Indian American elected to that state’s house.
Friedrich’s rants may have gone unnoticed if not for his recently discovered ties within the California Democratic party. Those ties reach right up to Amar Shergill, chair of the California Democratic Progressive Caucus. Shergill, a lawyer of Indo-Canadian origin, first amplified Friedrich’s work disparaging the first Hindu American elected to the House of Representatives, Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and then, joined Friedrich in going after a senior Hindu director in the Biden presidential campaign, Amit Jani.
Friedrich, Shergill, and their political allies targeted not only Kulkarni, Kuppa and Gabbard (D-HI), but also Indian American Democratic legislators like Ami Bera (D-CA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). Democratic candidates Jenifer Rajkumar, a New York Assembly candidate, and Rishi Kumar, member of the Saratoga City Council and California congressional candidate were also targeted. Besides Jani, Friedrich also went after another senior Biden Campaign staffer, senior Policy Advisor and former President Obama appointee, Sonal Shah.
The attacks follow a pattern: depict prominent Hindu American donors who assert Hindu identity, call out Hinduphobia, or promote robust U.S.-India relations as “Hindu nationalists,” “Hindu supremacists,” or “Hindu fascists.” Allege dual loyalty. Raise suspicion against all of them, and then intimidate them through reputational harm, even dox them. Only Hindu American candidates supported by these donors are singled out for attack.