Ahead of the 2024 US presidential election, news headlines have been dominated by one man: former president and four-time indictee, Donald J Trump.
But following the first Republican primary debate last night, a surprising candidate emerged as a potential rival for the nomination.
Not Florida governor Ron DeSantis, or former vice president Mike Pence. And not even ex-New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
As Trump sat down with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson – before appearing at Fulton County jail – wealthy bio-entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was storming ahead of the pack.
But who is he?
The 38-year-old grew up in Ohio, in a Hindu family.
Born to parents from southern India, he was raised to share their faith but attended a Catholic school, before graduating from Harvard with a biology degree and Yale Law School.
He has worked as a hedge fund investor and founded biotech firm Roivant Sciences in 2014 – which bought patents for undeveloped drugs – before resigning as CEO in 2021.
Forbes estimated Ramaswamy to be worth $630m earlier this year.
Ramaswamy was reportedly a libertarian in his college years and would perform politically themed raps under the stage name ‘Da Vek’, according to Reuters.
Just this month, he went viral after being filmed at the Iowa State fair rapping Eminem’s hit record ‘Lose Yourself’.
The businessman has contributed to both the Republican and Democratic parties and says he voted for Trump in 2020 – but previously voted libertarian in 2004, or not at all.
Voted a Sunday Times business book of the year, Ramaswamy’s 2021 tome ‘Woke, Inc.: Inside the Social Justice Scam’, sets out his visions for the future of capitalism.
He writes: “There’s a new, invisible force at work in the highest ranks of corporate America… the defining scam of our time.”
Ramaswamy lambasts companies for focusing on social justice and climate concerns as “wokeism” – and the publication saw his profile soar as a hero of the right-wing fringe.
Ramaswamy’s bid to secure the Republican nomination, if successful, would see him fight to become America’s first leader of Indian heritage.
He declared his intent to run in February, and initially came across as a long shot. His polling remains in single digits but recently he has gained on rivals, including DeSantis.
Positioning himself as a Trump defender; straddling ‘Christian values’ and his monotheistic Hindu faith, and a supporter of American nationalism, he seeks to embrace a broad coalition of key demographics, often religious, on the right, oppose abortion and limit federal power.
Ramaswarmy made some startling claims during the Fox hosted primary debate.
Even prior to the event, comparing the January 6 insurrection to the attack on the Twin Towers, he said: “I mean, I would take the truth about 9/11. I am not questioning what we – this is not something I’m staking anything out on. But I want the truth about 9/11.”
He suggested a mainstream Republican choice of candidate would resemble a “super PAC puppet” and asked: “Do you want incremental reform, which is what you’re hearing about, or do you want revolution?’
His views on the environment also steer to the right. He urged “unlock American energy… drill, frack, burn, embrace nuclear”and claimed that “the climate change agenda is a hoax”.
The millennial hopeful strongly defended Trump, saying he would pardon him if elected, and insisted Ukraine was a “disastrous”, “no win” war and “not a priority” for the US.