Indian Americans raised $3.3 million on a single night for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, a possible record, and pressed his campaign to moderate its positions on Kashmir and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, as also to add an agenda for the Hindu community on its web platform.
Around $2mn was written in by “big donors” and $1.3mn came in from smaller donors, said Ramesh Kapur, a member of the Biden-Harris National Finance Committee 2020, who participated in Tuesday night’s fundraiser, adding he believed this was a record amount raised by the community at any single-night fundraiser.
Biden acknowledged that he knew and understood this was because of Kamala Harris, his Indian-American nominee for vice president, Kapur said.
The main virtual fundraiser, which followed Biden’s interaction with a handful of Indian Americans such as Kapur, was attended by over 200 people and headlined by Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general, who is among those the community is pushing for a cabinet position in a possible Biden administration. He introduced the former vice-president, recalling how he had helped with his rocky confirmation hearing process in the Republican-controlled US Senate.
Some Indian Americans who wanted to “do more than just write cheques” also took the opportunity to press the former vice-president on his campaign’s position on Kashmir, CAA and the “lack of equal treatment” of Hindus, who don’t have a dedicated section on the campaign platform’s section titled “Joe’s Vision”.
There are various segments in that section of the website, which also explains Biden’s agenda for communities including Indian Americans, Muslims, Jews and catholic Christians.
The segment on Muslim Americans says, “In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy.
“Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act into law. These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious.”
Many in the Indian American community have called this an egregious overreach by the Biden campaign, amounting to interference in the internal affairs of another country. Even Democrats such as Sunil Puri, an Illinois businessman, were irked and have publicly and privately pushed the campaign to “moderate” its position.
“Joe do you even know that you’re making all these comments about (article) 370 and Kashmir,” Puri said recounting his remarks to the former vice-president. “And if you do, it’s a complicated situation. And before we jump in and make comments about what are other country’s internal affairs, (we should understand) we wouldn’t want India to tell us what to do.”
Puri, who was on the White House presidential commission on Asian Americans during President Barack Obama’s tenure, also said he cautioned Biden against taking the Indian American community for granted, citing a recent poll in which Biden’s support among Indian Americans is 65%, down from 77% in 2016 had backed Hillary Clinton, the then Democratic nominee.
The poll of the Indian American community by Indiaspora-AAPI Data showed that while Biden’s support in the community has fallen compared to Clinton’s, President Donald Trump’s has gone up from 16% in 2016 to 28%. This shift has been attributed by some to the Biden campaign’s positions on Kashmir and CAA, among other things.
“We have the Christian page, we have the Muslim page, but we don’t have a Hindu page,” Kapur said, recounting his remarks to the former vice-president at the fund-raiser, adding Biden asked him to call him.
The Indian American community, which has 1.8 million eligible voters, is being wooed aggressively by both Biden and Trump campaigns, especially in the battleground states that will determine the presidential election on the basis of electoral college seats, not the popular vote.
While most of them lean Democratic and will vote for Biden, according to the Indiaspora-AAPI poll, they feel aggrieved by on account of the Kashmir and CAA positions; enough to not be allayed by the campaign’s expansive programme for Indian Americans and Biden’s repeated assurances that relations with India will get “high priority” in his administration.
Even at the Tuesday fundraisers, he repeatedly expressed concern over Chinese aggression along the border with India. He brought it “twice” and on his own said Puri.