Indian Americans have emerged as a crucial vote bank in swing states where election outcomes can turn on thin margins, as slim as a thousand or few thousands…writes Yashwant Raj
Former US President Donald Trump is back with another Hindi slogan: “Bharat and US Sabse Achhe Dost (India and US are best friends)”.
Trump recorded this new catchphrase at his Mar-a-Lago residence recently for Shalabh Kumar, a Chicago-based businessman, Republican donor and strategist, who was also behind Trump’s first Hindi slogan in 2016: “Ab ki bar, Trump Sarkar”, which was inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll slogan “Ab ki bar, Modi sarkar”.
Kumar said Trump, who doesn’t speak any Hindi at all, had an easier time recording the slogan than many people in Kumar’s own team, who had trouble pronouncing the word ‘Bharat’ correctly. Most of them couldn’t get it right, Kumar recalled with a laugh, despite “hundreds of takes”.
The former President got it in “just three takes”, Kumar said.
Trump had a far more difficult time with the first slogan though. In Kumar’s telling, Trump had done 12 takes to finally get it right, recording it at his campaign headquarters at Trump Tower, which also served as the head office of the Trump Organization and, then, his residence. The former President now lives in Florida at his Mar-a-Lago club resort.
“We will use the slogan in the upcoming midterm elections in November,” Kumar said, discussing the creation of the new slogan exclusively with this reporter.
The slogan is intended to mobilise Indian/Hindu American voters in support of Republicans, especially the key candidates endorsed by the former President – J.D. Vance in Ohio, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin – and party candidates in Arizona, a one-time Republican stronghold that President Joe Biden, a Democrat, won in 2020, blocking Trump’s path to re-election.
Indian Americans have emerged as a crucial vote bank in swing states where election outcomes can turn on thin margins, as slim as a thousand or few thousands.
A 2020 report by US think-tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted that “in select swing states, the Indian American population is larger than the margin of victory that separated (Democratic Presidential nominee) Hillary Clinton and Trump in the closely-contested 2016 Presidential race”.
The Indian American community has grown to more than four million — said to be slightly more than 1 pert cent of the total population — but registered voters among them are less than the total registered voters, which stood at 160 million in 2020. They are located all over the country — the largest concentrations are in California, Texas, New Jersey, New York and Illinois.
But they matter more in swing states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and, now, Georgia and Arizona, where their numbers, though smaller, are more than the margins of victory or defeat — Biden had won Wisconsin by 20,000 votes (Trump had won the state by 22,000 in 2016), Pennsylvania by 80,000 votes (Trump won it by 50,000 in 2016), and Georgia by 12,000 votes (Trump had won it by 2,11,141 votes in 2016).
Both the Democratic and Republican parties now woo Indian Americans aggressively. Kumar said Trump’s slogan will feature in an ad that will play on TV channels viewed mostly by Indian Americans, starting October when candidates will be in the last month of campaigning for US House of Representatives, Senate (a third of the 100 seats) and state-wide officials such as governors and state legislatures.
Kumar has been working with Trump since 2016 but things cooled between them towards the end of the former President’s terms. Kumar stayed away from Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, but is back in the good graces of the former President. They recently appeared together in an NDTV interview.