Ro Khanna trounces challenger Ritesh Tandon who was supported by Hindu-American activists

Rep. Ro Khanna

Incumbents Ro Khanna. and Ami Bera registered easy victories in their respective seventh and 17th Congressional Districts in the California primaries on March 3.

Khanna seeking a third consecutive term, amassed more than 65 percent or 46,657 votes, while Ritesh Tandon, running on the Republican ticket -- who was promoted by a group of California Hindu Americans who have founded a Hindu American Political Action Committee led by multimillionaire physician and community leader in the Bay Area, Dr. Romesh Japra, — came in a distant second with 24.2 percent or 17,337 votes.

Last October, Hindu American activists in the Bay Area, incensed over Khanna’s recent tweet denouncing Hindutva and his joining the Congressional Caucus on Pakistan and his defiant refusal to withdraw his membership, promoted Tandon, and erstwhile tech entrepreneur—to run against Khanna in California’s 17th District, which incorporates Silicon Valley, on the Republican ticket in 2020.

Tandon, 46, who is president of the Uttar Pradesh Mandal of America (UPMA) and a stalwart of the Hindu temple in Fremont, California, said he was motivated to run by Khanna’s alleged anti-Hindutva comments and his refusal to withdraw from the Congressional Pakistan Caucus.

In an interview with India Abroad, Tandon however asserted that it’s not a “protest run” against Khanna but that “I want to make a change in this country.”

Democrat Stephen Forbes who received 8.4 percent of the vote, and Libertarian Joe Dehn who got a measly 2.4 percent, brought up the rear.

Khanna, whose district includes much of Silicon Valley, in a tweet, immediately after the results were known, said, "I am so grateful to everyone for our victory tonight. We are exceeding our 2018 totals, beating Ritesh Tandon who ran on Islamophobia and right-wing nationalism in India.”

“We are getting the most votes in the Bay Area! Silicon Valley rejects bigotry," he said.

Khanna’s re-election campaign war chest has over $2.5 million, while Tandon has been able to raise only about $30,000.

Later in an interview with India Abroad, Khanna said that he is “humbled by the overwhelming victory. We won more votes against Ritesh Tandon than I have in any primary in my career.”

“This shows that the district overwhelmingly supports my pluralism and commitment to building an inclusive coalition,” he said.

Khanna reiterated that “I am so grateful that I received the highest percentage vote of any of the Silicon Valley members. It shows the strong foundation that we have built in the district.”

He pointed out that “when you look at the precinct breakdown, you will see we won nearly 80 percent of the Indian American vote, and so, I am so honored to have so much support from the community.”

And, taking a hefty swipe at the likes of Tandon and his Hindutva supporters, including his patron, Japra, Khanna argued, “I am glad the communal politics of India were soundly rejected here.”

“This is the United States of America,” he declared, and added, “Indian Americans have no tolerance for sectarian division or nationalism.”

Meanwhile, Bera, the longest-serving Indian-American U.S. lawmaker, who is seeking his fifth consecutive term, in the open primary (both Democrats and Republicans) received 45.3 percent or 40,164 votes, while Republican Buzz Patterson, received 37.9 percent or 33,964 votes and will face each other in Nov.

As per California laws, the top two contestants, irrespective of their party affiliations, will have their names on the ballots of the general election.

Patterson, a retired 20-year military combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force, was also a former White House military aide in the National Security Council, and is a best-selling author, and popular conservative public speaker.

He has described Bera as “a reliable Democrat vote for Nancy Pelosi rather than for District 7,” and bemoaned that the “high unemployment in the district, jobs, homeless vagrants and homeless veterans,” is the reason “why so many Californians are moving to Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, and Arizona. (But) I want to stay and fight.”

Jon Ivy, a Republican, and Jeff Burdick, a Democrat, place third and fourth, receiving 7.6 percent or 6,806 votes and 6.8 percent or 6,081 votes, respectively.

In California’s 11th District, which is in the state’s East Bay area, three-term incumbent Democrat Mark DeSaulnier blew away Republican Nisha Sharma, also being supported by Japra’s Hindu American PAC with 68.5 percent or 78,976 votes to Sharma’s approximately 25 percent. But as the lone GOP candidate running, she will go on to challenge DeSaulnier in November, but is expected to suffer an ignominious defeat in this largely Democratic defeat.

Sharma, however, has done a little better than Tandon, raising $57,000 to fund her campaign.

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