The Indian-American vote base has gone through a major shift compared to the 2016 presidential elections, as a large number of them are now rooting for Donald Trump.

The US President Donald Trump's popularity among Indian Americans has increased to 28 percent since 2016, according to a September poll by the Indiaspora-AAPI Data. 

The poll, however, indicated that the Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden still has the support of at least 54 percent of Indian Americans. 

The support for Biden among Americans of Indian background is quite low compared to the levels the previous democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, enjoyed. Clinton was backed by 77 percent of Indian Americans, and her predecessor, Barack Obama,  was even more popular. He could boast of the support of 84 percent  Indian Americans in 2012. 

The Republican effort to woo Indian Americans

Biden’s relationship with the community has been significantly strong. He recently praised them saying “their hard work and entrepreneurship have powered the economic growth of the United States”. Under Obama's presidency, Biden, who served as the vice president, worked for strengthening bilateral ties between India and the US. He also nominated Indian American Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate for vice presidency. 

Trump, however, took some bold steps recently in order to garner support among the community. In the autumn of 2019, he shared the stage with India's Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event dubbed "Howdy Modi'' in Houston, Texas. Modi commands immense respect among the Indian-American community and his aggressive policies such as the abrogation of semi-autonomous status of the disputed Kashmir region, as well as the passing of anti-Muslim laws, like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), have been well received by the minority community in the US.   

The Indiaspora-AAPI survey also showed 56 percent of 1.8 million registered Indian American voters were contacted by Democrats and 48 percent by Republicans. The percentage of Republicans reaching the Indian community was only 31 percent in 2016.

If indecisive voters are attracted, the Indian-American support for Trump could reach up to 30 percent and go on to secure his re-election on November 3.

Trump and India's anti-Muslim law

The Indian government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), passed a controversial citizenship law in December 2019, prompting countrywide protests. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which is criticised for being anti-Muslim, defines migrants as foreigners and prohibits them from applying for citizenship if they are Muslims, while allowing non-Muslims of three neighbouring countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, to become Indian citizens. 

Trump turned a blind eye to the CAA and the abrogation of Article 370 in the UN-recognised disputed territory of Kashmir. Apart from offering to mediate the talks over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, he did not take any policy measure to mount pressure on the Modi regime in India. 

On the other hand, Biden urged India to take necessary steps to restore the rights of Kashmiri people and also expressed disappointment over the CAA.

On religious freedom, which has been shrinking quickly since Modi came to power in India, Trump praised the Hindu nationalist prime minister, saying he has "worked very hard to have great and open religious freedom,"

As a result of all those events, Hindu nationalist Indians are increasingly moving towards Trump and, hence, away from their traditional political front led by the Democratic Party.  

The “Howdy Modi” rally in Houston was attended by an estimated 50,000 members of America’s Indian immigrant population.

Standing alongside Trump, Modi said he admired Trump’s sense of leadership” while declaring his support for the Republican President.

“In the words of candidate Trump: ‘Abki baar Trump sakar,” which in Hindi language means: “This time (a) Trump government,” Modi said

One of the BJP party's affiliates in the US, Overseas Friends of BJP, has been aggressively promoting Hindu nationalism in the US. They are mainly targeting the Republican party candidates-- an effort which could translate into more support for Trump. 

As Trump became infected with Covid-19 last week, several groups of Indian-Americans gathered outside the hospital where he was being treated and held a puja. They all prayed for his quick recovery and victory in the coming elections.

Source: TRT World