Manga Anantatmula wants to keep the American dream alive for everyone – with freedom and liberty with equal justice under the rule of law. And to ensure that it happens, the Indian American Republican is running for Congress in the 11th District of Virginia. If elected, she would be the first GOP member to join the four Indian Americans in the Congress, described by Sen. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) as the ‘‘Samosa Caucus.” They include Krishnamoorthi from Illinois’ 8th congressional district, Ami Bera from California’s 7th congressional district, Ro Khanna from California’s 17th congressional district and Pramila Jayapal from Washington’s 7th congressional district, who is also the first-ever Indian-American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.
After moving to the U.S. with her husband and young son nearly 30 years ago, Anantatmula worked hard to get her U.S. citizenship. She worked at the Department of Defense, and at federal government departments and agencies such as Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Homeland Security.
Anantatmula is joined by her sistr, Nisha Mishra, as the other Indian-American Republican woman running for U.S. Congress. Sharma, also an immigrant from India, is contesting from California’s 11th congressional district. Sharma, a real estate agent in the East Bay, says she owes a debt of gratitude to the United States and the East Bay for providing her access to the American dream. She is also committed “to play the strategic role of being the bridge between the U.S. and India and to bring the best of the job creation for her district and help small businesses thrive and contribute to the economy of this great country.”
Both Anantatmula and Sharma are not career politicians and are among a new generation of Indian-American and Hindu-American leaders. However, political pundits doubt the two women will make a dent. Virginia’s 11th District has long been a Democratic stronghold, and Anantatmula is up against six-term incumbent Congressman Gerry Connolly. The district comprises mostly the affluent Fairfax County on the outskirts of Washington D.C., where 17 percent of the population is Asian, with Indian Americans making up an estimated 7 percent. Similarly, Sharma’s 11th District in California has traditionally voted Democrat. She is pitted against Democrat Mark Saulnier. The district has a population that is 13.6 percent Asian.
Indian Americans have traditionally voted blue. A recent survey by the polling firm YouGov found that 72 percent of Indian-American voters plan to vote for Vice President Joe Biden, while 22 percent favored President Trump. The online survey of 936 Indian American citizens was conducted by YouGov as part of a research project by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania. The survey also revealed that Indian Americans view U.S.-India relations as a low priority issue in this electoral cycle. Instead, national issues like healthcare and the economy appear to be more important to them.
Living the American Dream
As an immigrant, Anantatmula says she can identify with the plight of many hard-working Americans and immigrants who never have once taken for granted the privilege of living in the U.S.
Coming from a family of Indian freedom fighters, Anantatmula says her family has always stood up for freedom.
“Like the founding fathers of America, my grandfather was a freedom fighter who fought against the British for independence,” she says on her website. The Andhra Pradesh-born Anantatmula is the mother of a lieutenant commander (LCDR) in the US Navy. She is a strong supporter of India’s stand on Kashmir, its Citizenship Amendment Act (which offers a path to citizenship Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian migrants), and the building the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
“I will be your voice, not a noise, “Anantatmula told her constituents while campaigning before the Indian-American and the Hindu-American communities. Prior to getting into politics, Anantatmula worked as a federal government contractor in defense acquisitions program management. She completed her early schooling in Chennai and then graduated from Agra University, now known as Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar University.
Sharma says the key challenges of the district are children’s safety, environmental controls, law enforcement reforms, and homelessness. She believes the current leadership of her district has completely failed to address these issues. On her website, she says that her heart breaks “to see people sleep and die on our streets, no holistic approach has been taken to rehabilitating the homeless population through mental health and drug treatment, job training, and transitional housing. Our economy is the strongest, it has been in generations, but despite this, our taxes and fees are being increased by our representatives under the guise of fixing our crumbling infrastructure.
She serves as a member of the board of trustees of the Fremont Dharma Samaj, one the largest socio-religious organizations in the Bay Area, which brings 100,000 people a year together through different programs. She also serves as the women empowerment chairwoman for the Festival of the Globe. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Punjab University.