Texas GOP Apologizes For Hindu-Themed Campaign Ad

The ad equated a Hindu deity with the Republican Party.

Republican leaders of Fort Bend County in Texas apologized for its campaign ad after it led to an uproar from the Asian-American community. Ironically, the advertisement targeted the county's Hindu voters and was printed in time for Ganesh Chaturthi, the Hindu festival. The ad was printed in the area paper, The India Herald, where it depicted Lord Ganesha, a deity having the distinctive head of an elephant. The tagline of the ad compared Lord Ganesha with the elephant symbol of the GOP and concluded the message by asking the reader whether they will vote for an elephant or a donkey.

Fort Bend County has a sizable population of Asian-Americans, comprising 20 percent of the population. Many residents speak Hindi and Gujarati in their homes. Understanding the faux-pas, the Republican Party quickly went into damage control mode. Jacey Jetton, the Chairman of the GOP in Fort Bend, said the advertisement was run to celebrate a holiday. The Republican wrote that the offending advertisement was crafted with input from Hindus and there was no intention to cause offense. He pointed out that such a controversy clearly shows the dichotomy of the Hindu community where an ad could be perfectly tolerable to one part of the community but repulsive to another. The local Republican chief then provided his sincere apologies to any person who felt offended by the advertisement. He said it was clearly not the intent.

The offending ad, however, has already done its damage. Not only has the local South Asian-American community expressed outrage, the Hindu American Foundation promptly issued a statement asking the Republican Party unit of Fort Bend County to clarify what it actually wanted to convey. In its press release, Rishi Bhutada, a member of the Foundation board, said that while the Hindu community appreciates the Fort Bend County Republican Party's tries to connect with Hindus on a significant Hindu festival, the advertisement in question, equating a Hindu deity with a political party, is offensive.

Democrats predictably have joined into the fray. One of them is Sri Preston Kulkarni, an Indian American in the contest for representing the 22nd Congressional District in Texas, including Fort Bend County, shared the ad in his Facebook feed, saying it is wrong to equate Lord Ganesha with a political party. He added that such a campaign promotes false stereotypes concerning Hindus living in the United States.

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