Harris, 55, whose father is an African from Jamaica and mother an Indian, is currently the US Senator from California.
Leading Indian-American groups and individuals, including former Pepsico chief Indra Nooyi, have hailed the nomination of Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris as Democratic vice presidential candidate, saying it was a “great choice” and a “moment of pride” for the entire community in the US.
However, there were also some community members who questioned Harris’ contribution towards the Indo-US ties and said they would not be swayed by identity politics.
Presumptive Democratic party presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday named 55-year-old Harris as his vice presidential running mate, making history by selecting the first black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket. Harris, whose father is an African from Jamaica and mother an Indian, is currently the US Senator from California.
“This is a great choice for our country,” tweeted Nooyi, who is seen as a role model by millions of women across the world. Harris herself was a presidential aspirant until last year before she dropped out of the race because of lack of popular support. “What an electric moment for the Indian-American community! Indian-Americans are now truly a mainstream community in the national fabric,? M R Rangaswami, an eminent Indian-American and the founder of Indiaspora, told PTI. Welcoming the decision, IMPACT, a leading Indian-American advocacy group and a Political Action Committee, said it will raise USD 10 million for the campaign.
“Kamala Harris’ story is the story of a changing, inclusive America…Her candidacy is historic and inspiring, not only for Black Americans, but for millions of Asian American voters, the fastest growing voting bloc in the country,” IMPACT’s executive director Neil Makhija said. Harris’ supporters on Tuesday announced to launch a nationwide campaign ‘America mein Khila Kamal (Lotus blooms in the US).
California-based Indian-American entrepreneur Ajay Bhutoria told PTI that he is planning to release graphic and social media posts around this slogan in the run up to the November 3 presidential elections. Bhutoria is also the creator of a multi-language campaign, including in Hindi, which says, “America Ka Neta Kaisa Ho, Jo Biden Jaisa Ho!! (How America’s leader should be, like Biden)”, as part of the efforts to reach to the Indian-American community.
According to Neha Dewan, National Director of South Asians for Biden, Harris has fought for justice throughout her time in public service, which makes her an “uniquely inspired choice” to take on Trump and the Republicans.
Harris’ selection to serve in the second-highest office in the US is a signal that the community is an important part of the American fabric, said Deepa Sharma, national communications co-chair for South Asians for Biden.
The Indo-American Democratic Organisation, one of the oldest South Asian American political advocacy bodies in the US, noted that a “Biden-Harris administration will prioritise the needs and challenges faced by immigrants”. Harris will build stronger US-India relations, said Rajendra Dichpally from US India Security Council. However, not all Indian-Americans were happy with Harris’ nomination.
“Yes, there will be initial excitement and confusion for a few weeks amongst the Indian Americans — debating whether to vote for Biden due to Kamala Harris being of Indian Heritage or voting for Trump, who has been great for India-US relations. There is and there will be a lot of hustling by the Biden-Harris combo for the Indian-American votes in the battleground states,” Al Mason, co-chair of the Trump Victory Indian American Finance Committee, told PTI.
However, after initial few weeks of excitement, Indian-Americans would continue to support Trump because of his “impeccable track record” when it comes to Indo-US ties and promises fulfilled to the community, he asserted. Mason questioned what Biden and Harris have done for India And went on to add, “Zero. Future promises by them — after being elected — mean nothing.”
According to a recent survey conducted by Mason 50 per cent of the Indian-Americans in key battleground states like Texas, Michigan, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania who traditionally vote for Democrats, are now switching over to the Trump camp. Prominent physician Dr Deepak Nandi said Harris’ selection as vice presidential candidate will have minimal effects on the Indian-American electoral votes as Trump has done so much for the community by supporting their entrepreneurial efforts and ease of doing business in the US.
According to Sridhar Chillara, founder and chairman of the Asian American Republican Alliance, Indian-Americans will vote “with eyes wide open” in the presidential election and “reject the game of hypocrisy and identity politics played by the Democrats”. Acknowledging that Harris’ nomination will excite many community members, as this is the closest the community has come to the Oval Office, Indian-Americans for Trump in a statement said, however, there is a lot of opposition to her.
“Until she was contesting for the President, during the Democratic primary season, she had not associated herself with the Indian-American population. That is why, at a debate podium, questions were raised to her about her being of Indian heritage and hiding it. That opened this issue for her,” it said in a statement. Indian-American physician Dr Raj Bhayani said historically, selection of vice president candidates has had no effect on the outcome of the presidential race.