DESI TOUCH

A group of Hindu Republicans is enlisting Bollywood stars to get Indian-Americans to vote for Trump

Quartz india
Quartz india

The Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) is pulling out all the stops to get Donald Trump into the White House.

The group was founded in 2015 by the Chicago-based businessman Shalabh Kumar, who has become one of Trump’s biggest backers (he and his wife have already donated nearly $900,000 to Trump’s campaign and they’re aiming for $1.1 million). Kumar is determined to get the deep-pocketed but traditionally left-leaning Indian-American community on Trump’s side.

To do so, he has invited a host of Bollywood celebrities, including the actors Shahid Kapoor, Prabhu Deva, and Malaika Arora Khan, to a charity event to be held in New Jersey on Sept. 24. And the guest of honor is Trump himself.

In July, Kumar said he was planning a “mega Bollywood fund-raising event in the US for victims of terror in America and around the world” that would “serve as a forum to reach out to Indian American supporters and donors for Trump’s presidential bid.”

According to a flyer posted on Facebook, the event is for the benefit of “victims of terror particularly Kashmiri pundits and Hindu refugees from Bangladesh.”

(Facebook/Republican Hindu Coalition)

The event is not listed as a fundraiser for Trump, but winning the hearts and minds (as well as the donations) of Indian-Americans should be a high priority for the candidate. Indians are the second-largest immigrant group in the US and the country’s wealthiest ethnic group, according to US Census data. As of 2012, there were over 3 million Indian Americans living in the country, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, with about half identifying as Hindus.

Trump faces an uphill battle in this community. In the 2008 elections, around 84% of Indian Americans voted for Barack Obama and data from the Pew Research Center shows that even in 2012 a majority of the community aligned themselves with the Democrats. Earlier this year, a survey showed that nearly 60% of Indian Americans viewed the Republican party unfavorably and 62% had a similar negative opinion of Trump.

But the RHC is trying to change that. Even as Trump has taken a hard-line (though constantly shifting) stance on immigration, the lobby group is determined to convince Hindu-American voters that they are not the kind of immigrants Trump is eager to deport or build a wall to keep out.

“I have 100% complete assurance from Donald Trump that he would welcome talent from India,” Kumar told the Indian television channel ET Now last month, adding that Trump’s anti-immigration stance pertained to “illegal immigration that deals with drugs or terrorism.”

Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has helped him find him fans among right-wing Hindus in the US and in India, playing off the long-running tensions between the two communities. In May, members of a Hindu group conducted religious rituals in New Delhi to ask the gods to help Trump win the elections in November.

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