A woman of In­dian ori­gin as the next US Pres­i­dent?

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Comment - ANIRUDH BHATTACHARYYA Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based com­men­ta­tor on Amer­i­can af­fairs The views ex­pressed are per­sonal

Fif­teen years ago, a young Amer­i­can lawyer had a MeToo mo­ment, though not quite in the con­text of that term’s cur­rent hash­tagged con­no­ta­tion. She cold called the or­gan­i­sa­tion In­dian-Amer­i­can Lead­er­ship Ini­tia­tive or IALI, which had been formed just three years ear­lier to build na­tional sup­port within the com­mu­nity for can­di­dates at all lev­els of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. She con­tacted the group to in­form them that she too was run­ning for dis­trict at­tor­ney in San Fran­cisco and was In­dian-Amer­i­can, a fact many were un­aware of.

As the United States starts its two-year slog of po­ten­tial nom­i­nees for the post of Pres­i­dent try­ing to make their pres­ence felt, that lawyer has at­tained a pro­file that will eas­ily ring a bell: Ka­mala Harris, US sen­a­tor from Cal­i­for­nia and pos­si­ble foe to Don­ald Trump in his 2020 re-elec­tion bid.

It took five more years for Harris, who was raised by her Ta­mil­ian mother, Shya­mala, who was sep­a­rated from her Ja­mai- can-ori­gin fa­ther Don­ald Harris, to get some na­tional face time. That came cour­tesy her ap­pear­ance as a sur­ro­gate rep­re­sent­ing a young sen­a­tor from Illi­nois at­tempt­ing to cap­ture the Demo­cratic Party’s nom­i­na­tion for the 2008 Pres­i­den­tial run:Barack Obama. Obama achieved that ob­jec­tive, and much more, later, and as the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion was be­ing held in Den­ver, she at­tended an IALI event on its mar­gins, a lit­tle pay­back. Obama and Harris ob­vi­ously have much in com­mon, from their mixed race ori­gin to pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics. He once de­scribed her as “by far the best look­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral in Amer­ica”, a com­ment that at­tracted plenty of crit­i­cism at that time, but she will cer­tainly look pretty at­trac­tive to many vot­ers af­ter four years of Trump.

As the Busi­ness Stan­dard re­ported in a pro­file when she ran for the Se­nate, af­ter hav­ing been elected the at­tor­ney-gen­eral of Amer­ica’s largest state, Harris was a fre­quent flyer to In­dia: from a solemn oc­ca­sion like tak­ing her mother’s ashes for im­mer­sion, to mer­rier ones like haunt- ing Chen­nai’s leg­endary sa­ree em­po­rium, Nalli. Those trips, though, are no longer the norm, since pol­i­tics doesn’t make for get­aways. Her vis­its these days are more tar­geted to states like Iowa and South Carolina, both of which hold early pri­maries, and were in­stru­men­tal in es­tab­lish­ing Obama’s stature as a can­di­date in 2008.

Harris is no cer­tainty for the nom­i­na­tion. There are many high-volt­age con­tenders eyeing the chance to take on Trump: A dozen-and-a-half names are al­ready be­ing spec­u­lated upon.

If Harris has to have a chance, she will need a dif­fer­ence maker to back her. And an en­dorse­ment from Obama will be just that tonic, one each of the other con­tenders is also thirst­ing for. If she does de­cide to make the dive into the deep­est end of US pol­i­tics, the sen­a­tor, once de­scribed as the “fe­male Obama”, will check a lot of firsts with her pro­file, but only the orig­i­nal Obama can raise it above the fray.

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