The Indian-Americans who are adding muscle in Trump's 2020 campaign

2nd September 2020

2nd September 2020

Shalabh Kumar and Manasvi Magai with Donald Trump

With less than 2 months to go, the 2020  presidential elections of the United States of America(USA) is beginning to peak in frenzy. American citizens, with people and governments across the globe keenly observing, are weighing up the two leading candidates; present Republican president Donald Trump and his challenger, Democrat Joe Biden.

Interestingly, both the candidates are trying their best to actively court the Indian-American community. While the Indian- Americans only account for just 1% of the US population--around 2.5 million--they are going to play a vital role in the November elections.

The group has never been factored in in the political calculations. But these elections are different. Nearly 1.8 million US voters are Indian-Americans. They could seriously promote or hurt the prospects of two rivals.

As per a report, Indian Americans had the highest rate of voting at 62% in the 2016 US presidential elections.  Even during the 2018 US midterm elections, there was a hike in voter turnout -- 47% from that of 24% in 2014.

While the Indian-American community is capable of turning the tables upside down, they do not seem to be homogenous in their votes and are likely to be split. The group has traditionally favored Democrats, including in the 2016 elections by the side of Hillary Clinton. But this one could be different. President Donald Trump’s heft with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and the latter’s popularity among the Indian-Americans in the US, makes him favourite to get the votes of Indian origin voters.

The Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Data mention that Indian-Americans are the largest group and the AAPI population has recorded an increase of more than 40% between 2012 and 2018. Some of the wealthiest in the AAPI group have been working for the Republican party and raising a hell of a lot of money. However, Biden is shown to be ahead of Trump in the opinion polls and the AAPI Data founding director, Karthick Ramakrishnan still feels they would favour the Democrats.

The group includes prominent names. Dr. Sudhir Parikh the owner of the New India Times, a biweekly national paper on Indian-American issues, has been a Republican supporter and has been raising money for the party since the 1990s. Shekhar Tiwari, a businessman, founded the American Hindu Coalition in 2017. Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, a well-known GQ billed Indian is one of the “most important Indian-American in Trump's inner circle.”

Manasvi Magai, a former Miss India, is the vice-chair of Republican Hindu coalition that advocates the interest of the 4.4 million Hindu-Americans. She is the vice-president and ambassador of the AVG group of companies, headquartered in Chicago. These are excellent names in Trump’s attempt to reach out to local Indians voters.

The founder of the South Asian Republican Committee (SARC), Hemant Bhatt has also extended his support to Donald Trump and has launched a website, trumpmypresident.com, to support his presidential campaign.

The group is not attracted to Kamala Harris, the running mate of Joe Biden. The general secretary of SARC, Dev Karlekar, points out how Harris has always been a stark critic of the Modi government’s decisions on Kashmir, especially after the revocation of Article 370.

Her constant emphasis is on her Tamil heritage instead of representing her Indic roots which doesn’t make her a suitable candidate for them.  

The Trump campaign has also released a Bollywood style video to influence the Indian- American voters. The historic events like “Howdy Modi” and “Namaste Trump” can help Trump in securing a large number of votes.

 

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