Modi-Trump bonhomie has eroded Democratic support among diaspora, says US think tank.
Can Indian American senator Kamala Harris’ historic nomination as Democratic vice presidential nominee keep supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the community from defecting to his friend President Donald Trump?
Or will the first Black woman and first Asian American vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket help turn out black and Asian voters, who have historically supported the Democratic party, for the Joe Biden-Harris ticket?
Posing these questions, US think tank, the Atlantic council in a study of “The Indian American voter in 2020” noted how Harris’ nomination and Trump-Modi bonhomie has changed the dynamics of the 2020 presidential election.
Without hazarding a guess, it warned the Biden-Harris campaign to “prepare itself for a demographic leaning more across the political spectrum than in 2016” when 79 percent Asian Americans voted for Hillary Clinton with only 18 percent voting for Trump.
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Some Indian American voters had also confirmed “that India and Indian-related policies figure significantly into their voting decisions,” the think tank said.
While Harris, it noted had “put her Indian roots on full display” at the Democratic convention, former Indian American US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley had also “invoked stories of overcoming racism as the daughter of Indian immigrants” at the Republican convention.
“Over the last few weeks, both Democrats and Republicans have painted a picture of the American dream through the experiences of Indian Americans in an attempt to court voters,” the Council noted.
In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential elections, Indian Americans raised over $10 million in support of Clinton, it said, but since then, some Indian American donors have slowly leaned towards Trump.
Taking note of Modi-Trump rallies in Houston and Ahmedabad, the Council said, “Trump has made unprecedented efforts to connect and reach the Indian American community.”
“Over the course of the last four years, the blossoming of the Trump-Modi relationship has led to significant advancements in the bilateral relationship,” it said.
“Until 2016, the majority of the roughly 4 million Indian American voters skewed towards the Democratic Party,” the Council said.
But “much has changed since the Obama years, including the presence of the Republican Party’s efforts with this demographic.”
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“Beyond the symbolic bonhomie, the Democrats have continued to make critical remarks about the state of religious freedom in India and Kashmir more generally,” the think tank noted.
“However, President Trump has made a concerted effort to court the Indian American vote, including running targeted ads and participating in rallies with the Indian American community,” it said.
“The increased attention and evolving Trump-Modi dynamics, in addition to prominent Indian American Republicans like Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal may be contributing to an increasingly shifting Indian American political base,” the Council suggested.
“It is no wonder then that the Biden-Harris campaign are likely concerned that some of the very same Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and donated to her campaign were the same people cheering at the ‘Howdy Modi!’ rally,” it said.
“The unrelenting support Modi continues to garner in the US with a number of Indian American voters is significant and should not be overlooked,” the think tank said.
“Of course, the Indian American community is not a monolith and there are large swaths of the community that see themselves in Harris’ story,” it said.
Many Indian American voters have been increasingly critical of the policies of the BJP-led government, including Harris and House member Pramila Jayapal, the Atlantic council noted.
Harris has continuously stated that she supported strong ties between India and the US, although she was critical of Modi’s revocation of Article 370, stripping the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Harris also stood by Jayapal on human rights issues in India, the think tank noted.