New York, Nov 3 (IANS) With the race for the White House tightening, Indian-American Democrats are making a push to get their community to turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton, saying she’s been a steadfast friend of Indians and India.
Leaders of “Indian Americans for Democrats and Friends of Hillary for President” appealed in particular to Indians living in states expected to play a key role in the presidential elections next week saying that despite its small size the community’s votes could have an outsize effect in a tight race.
At a news conference here Wednesday, New York hotelier Sant Chatwal pointed to the 2000 elections which Democrat Al Gore lost by less than 400 votes in Florida and said that in states like that votes of Indian Americans carry more weight as a deciding factor.
The key states are those that are traditionally Republican and are called Red States, and the swing states where the two parties are almost evenly poised and could go either way. The latest opinion polls showed that Republican Donald Trump has narrowed the gap and was tied with Clinton or was very close.
Chatwal recalled the many visits Hillary Clinton made to India and said that she understood the country and was deeply touched by it, making her a loyal friend of the community and the nation.
Bhupi Patel, a community leader, spoke of the influence Indians steadily have built up in US politics and their impact on India-US relations. He recalled Indian American Center for Political Awareness founded by the late newspaper pioneer Gopal Raju and how it encouraged Indians to get involved in politics and helped India and the US develop closer ties.
Patel said that Clinton’s agenda for health care, immigration reform and improving the quality of and access to education meshed in with that of Indian Americans for whom these were crucial issues.
Chatwal spoke of his close ties to the Clintons and said that President Bill Clinton asked him what position he would want in his administration. He said he replied that he only wanted Clinton to visit India, which he did, laying the foundation for deepening ties between the two nations.
Chatwal, who is leading one of the Indian-American mobilsation drives, was convicted in 2014 of election finance violations involving $180,000 he gave to three politicians, including Hillary Clinton, and witness tampering.
While other Indians convicted of election finance offences received prison terms, he was not sentenced to prison and was only fined $500,000 and given probation and ordered to do community service.
Trump, who had pledged at a rally last month that Hindus and India would have a friend in the White House if he won, came in for criticism at the news conference.
Chatwal dismissed his statements saying, “Talk is cheap.”
Trump does not know anything about India, Chatwal said, asserting that he was talking of Hinduism and India as one while in reality India was made up Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Chrisitans, Buddhists and others.
Atlanta’s Mike Patel, who served under Bill Clinton as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asians and Pacific Islanders and is a former chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, said that contributing to election funds of politicians alone did not matter and Indian Americans should also vote and get involved in community affairs.
He said that hotel owner were provide free rooms to volunteers who were working to mobilise voters in several key states as part of their involvement in the civic life of the US.