The Lieutenant Governor of Maryland is in hot political water right now as she faces accusations of aggressive politics and receiving donations from Hindu nationalist groups, following an investigation by the Independent.
Aruna Miller made it into high state office as the running mate of Wes Moore, the first Black governor of the state, while she became the state’s first Indian American lieutenant governor.
An anonymous former staffer of Miller’s told the Quint that “her ties with Hindutva and BJP-affiliated groups, ones that she has continued to lie about, are even larger than her unethical political practices and vengeful behavior.”
Hindutva is a movement seeking to make Hindus the dominant culture in India. The BJP or Bharatiya Janata Party is aligned with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been accused of pushing a Hindu nationalist movement and discriminating against religious minorities.
The Quint reports that while she repeatedly and strongly denied any funding for her campaigns having come from pro-BJP or Hindutva groups, campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission include donations from pro-BJP or Hindutva groups amounting to over $110,000.
Allegedly, her campaigns reported donations from at least six groups with Hindutva leanings, or individuals linked to them, including the Overseas Friends of the BJP, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad America, the latter two of which are tied to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The Independent reported allegations by Andrew Messick, a campaign worker for her former opponent David Trone, that her husband David Miller followed his car on the highway after he asked a pointed question about donations tied to the Overseas Friends of the BJP at a chance meeting with Miller. Eventually coming to a stop in a parking lot near Messick’s house, he says the car following him pulled in behind him, waiting behind him for about ten minutes before the pursuer flashed his one working headlight and drove off.
David Miller, speaking through his wife’s office strongly denied the accusation, demonstrating they own a black Mercedes sedan, while Messick described a white one.
Barnaby Yeh, a Taiwanese American from Maryland says that he founded a political group that was eventually driven out of Democratic Party politics by an aggressive social media backlash from “political insiders,” after they questioned Miller on the same topic. Yeh has since moved to Taiwan, saying he lost his job due to the backlash.
The Quint also found that Overseas Friends of the BJP activist Sudhir Sekhsaria was a major fundraiser for Miller, serving as her campaign treasurer during her failed congressional bid. He organized a fundraiser for the governor campaign that took place in the home of Sikhs for Trump founder Jasdip “Jesse” Singh, cohosted by former Trump adviser and Muslims for Trump founder Sajid Tarar.
Some Democrats are questioning the role of staunch pro-Trump Republicans in campaigns involving Miller. Scott Webber, a Democratic activist in Maryland told the Quint that “this is a progressive, pro-immigrant, woman who is associated with a movement that goes against Democratic party lines and also against her own claims of believing in pluralism and open dialogue.”
“It’s an incongruent stand to take. She believes in all of this but supports the BJP, follows political behavior that could only be seen in corrupt democracies,” perhaps referring to the concept of machine politics, where organizations with strong control over a group of voters and funding offer politicians votes behind closed doors in exchange for help with their political goals.
Responding to the Independent, Miller’s office dismissed the accusations as hearsay and claimed that critics of her fundraising connections were attempting to portray her political record in an unfairly negative manner. Governor Wes Moore’s campaign website claims that “There is not one dollar in this campaign that has anything to do with the Hindutva movement or international politics.”
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