#HowdyModi: An event aimed at adding another foreign feather to PM Modi’s hat
Though Modi was aware that none of crowd in Houston may ever vote for BJP, as they were mostly all American citizens, he made all right noises to please them, mainly for public consumption in India
Though the Congress party has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of campaigning for President Donald Trump, it would seem that the primary objective behind the #HowdyModi event was to try and consolidate his own constituency back in India.
There are only about 4 million-odd Indians in a population of over 300 million in the United States, forming around 1.3 per cent of its population. True, Indians are an influential community and over-represented in various fields there, but numerically they do not matter much.
Not only this, an overwhelming percentage of them have traditionally voted for the opposition Democratic Party –– they did so even in 2016. Yet President Trump, through his gesture, wants to seek more than just a few thousand votes. He was in the show as he means business –– and not just votes.
The irony of US politics is that the majority of minorities –– Jews, Latino, African-Americans, Hindus, Muslims and even East Asians prefer to vote for the Democratic Party. They do so notwithstanding the fact that each community has its own vested interests, sometimes clashing with that of the others.
So, the people of Pakistani and Indian origin or Jews and Arabs may not see eye to eye on issues like Kashmir or Palestine, but they more often than not vote for the Democratic Party, though Republicans do try to corner as many votes as possible.
President Trump knows that in spite of his best efforts, a big majority of the 50,000 Indian-Americans in attendance at Modi’s event in Houston may not vote for his Republican party. Yet he wanted to give it a shot as Indians, like Jews, are an emerging community in the US. The Republicans, it must be noted, leave no stone unturned to woo Jews though they usually vote for Democrats.
Similarly, though Modi was fully aware that none of the gathered crowd in Houston may ever vote for the BJP ––as they were mostly all American citizens –– he made all the right noises to try and please them, mainly for the public consumption back in India.
Modi is well aware of the contributions of the Indian-Americans in his image makeover after the 2002 Gujarat riots when he was denied a visa by the United States and when there was a lot of campaigning against him.
Besides, the BJP and RSS are all too aware that an overwhelming percentage of funding from abroad come from the Indian-Americans living in the United States.
Modi, who always loves to be in campaign mode, knows the significance of such an exercise on foreign soil. He knows that people back in India will appreciate his nationalistic speeches and gestures, be it in the United States or the United Kingdom.
Though the Indian economy is in bad shape, and issues such as the Kashmir lockdown, mob lynchings and Assam NRC have drawn global attention, a word or two of praise for India by leaders like Trump certainly energize the BJP and its supporters –– as well as others too.
But what should also not be forgotten is President Obama’s praise of Modi when he last visited India. He was no less generous than President Trump now.
However, before leaving the Indian soil he, in a different function, ended up giving a sermon to the Indian government on the importance of religious tolerance. He repeated this again later in the United States.
Still, as high as over 80 per cent Indian American votes went to his Democratic Party Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. Trump got less than 10 per cent votes though the Republican Hindu Coalition did a campaign for him.
Just like strong Republican support for Zionism does not attract the majority of Jew votes for the Grand Old Party –– it only consolidates US-Israel ties –– the exercise like the one hosted in Houston on Sep 22 may not be electorally beneficial for Trump.
But much depends on the unpredictable Trump, who had befriended President Kim of North Korea after repeatedly threatening to destroy that country.