The head of America’s Republican Hindu Coalition tells Breitbart News that by specifically addressing the interests of America’s Indian- and Hindu-American voters, President Donald Trump’s campaign marked a turning point in the voting bloc’s relationship with the GOP.
Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, a Chicago-based inventor and entrepreneur under consideration for the position of United States ambassador to India, invested his energies heavily in swaying the Hindu-American vote away from the Democratic Party, where it has traditionally remained.
According to the book Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar (roughly translated as “next time it will be the Trump administration”) which chronicled Kumar’s contributions to the Trump campaign, the Democratic Party took Indian-American votes for granted for many years. The phrase “ab ki baar Trump sarkar” was inspired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign.
“In 2012, a paltry 16 percent of Hindu-Americans supported Mitt Romney,” the book, written by Republican political campaign manager and strategist James Kahrs, reads.
“2016 saw a huge reversal: 65 percent of these same Hindu-American voters supported Donald Trump. No other ethnic group switched so dramatically, and those votes in key battleground states provided the margin of victory for Trump.”
Kumar, in an interview with Breitbart News, attributes this to Trump campaigning among these voters. “We had a candidate, for the first time, that adopted” policies that specifically addressed Indian- and Hindu-American concerns, he said. Kahrs, in his book, agrees.
The book argues that it was Trump’s message to Hindu-Americans that “powered the most consequential ad of the 2016 election cycle.” An ad targeted at the community stated, for example, “The Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House.
“We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Modi. Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar. We love the Hindus, we love India. I’m Donald Trump and I approve this message.”
That ad ran dozens of times a day on Indian-American channels. According to the Times of India, “This is the first time that a US presidential candidate has specifically targeted the Indian-American vote bank.”
“In the battleground states, we had 207,000 Democrat votes switched to Republican votes,” Kumar told Breitbart News.
These include Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Last November, Kumar told Breitbart News at Trump’s victory party that the Republican Hindu Coalition swung 25,000 votes for Trump in Florida, Ohio, and other swing states.
Kumar spent over $1 million of his money to “Make America Great Again.” However, Kumar is most credited for his role as Chairman of the Indian Advisory Committee for the Trump campaign and his creation of the Republican-Hindu Coalition, which pushed Indian-American support for a Republican candidate to levels not seen before in this nation’s history.
The United States is home to 4.2 million Indian-Americans. Kumar said the majority of these Hindu-Americans voted Democrat in the past because they were taught, “since you are a minority, a brown person, you think of yourself as a Democrat.” However, he said Trump was able to change this dynamic by touching the hearts of this important voting bloc.
Kumar said that those coming to Trump’s town halls were estimated to be two-thirds Democratic voters.
“But after about a two- to three-hour session, at least 90 percent became Republicans. Once you have opened their hearts that you are welcome into our party—once that’s there—when the mind opens, then you can bring over all the facts and policies,” Kumar told Breitbart News.
When he created the Republican-Hindu Coalition, inspired by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), Kumar did so with four core values in mind that he believes resonate with Indian-Americans. They are what he likes to call the “Four F’s”: free enterprise and religious freedom, fiscal discipline (don’t spend more than what you earn), family values (supporting families because strong families build good citizens), and a firm foreign policy.
“When we did a scoring of all the presidential candidates, we found that Trump scored the highest in these categories,” Kumar told Breitbart News.
In interviews, Indian-American voters appeared particularly engaged by Trump’s commitment to eradicating radical Islamic terrorism.
“India and America face the same threat of terrorism from Islamic fundamentalism. And Huma Abedin, a Pakistani with links to Islamic countries in the Middle East, controls Hillary Clinton,” Rattan Kumar, a doctor in Tampa, Florida, told the Hindu about why he voted for Trump.
“Trump will take terrorists head on,” he reportedly said.
Trump’s message on terrorism was not his only appealing quality to Hindu-American voters, however. Shalli Kumar noted that another reason for Trump’s favor among Hindu-Americans is because “one out of 10 Hindu-Americans is a business owner. This is a community of entrepreneurs, a community of high education. … And they had absolutely no idea what was being pushed by the Democrats,” he said of taxes and legislation pushed by that political party which hurts small businesses.
Kumar also explained that Indian-Americans are among the lowest recipients of welfare. “They take the lowest from the government because our culture looks at taking from anybody as being like begging” and brings a sense of shame. “In fact,” he added, “the total amount of taxes, when we count all taxes paid by Hindu-Americans, is $50 billion a year.”
He said the Indian-American community has “characteristics that are very conservative, very Republican.”
“Because of the Indian diaspora in the United States, you will see that in certain states in India, everyone has somebody who lives in the United States. They have begun to really love America,” he said.
Kumar noted that this was a shift from the 1970s, when then British were more popular. “America’s influence in India has grown” as the country has presented itself tangibly, with the popularity of American brands like Colgate, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, among others.
“This is because of the number of people of Hindu and Indian origin living in the United States.” He added, “Chinese labels are not accepted in India at all.” Similarly, Kumar explained that India prefers American defense products and fighter planes over those from other nations, because they are superior.
He added, Chinese brands are “sub-standard for India” in terms of quality.
Trump is a popular figure in India, often compared to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Among several similarities between both leaders was each man’s ability to appeal to his nation’s populist demand.
Kumar also told Breitbart News that if he is selected as U.S. ambassador to India, he plans to oversee the multiplication of trade between both nations to $4 trillion over the next decade. Currently, U.S.-India trade is at $100 billion.