INTRO: Americans of varied ethnic backgrounds play an increasingly
pivotal role in their local and national elections. And a new survey
shows a sizeable
portion of Asia-American voters remain undecided about the presidential
Indian-Americans are among the largest segments of that group. VOA's
Subhash Vohra recently spoke to a group of politically attuned
TEXT: At the beginning of the 20th century, only about four thousand
Indian immigrants lived in the United States. But in the last few
decades, hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens have immigrated to
the United States. U.S. residents of Indian descent now number more
than 2.5 million out of a total U.S. population of approximately 300
Indian Americans are among the most highly educated among
America's ethnic groups. They have been successful in business,
medicine, and in dozens of other fields. One recent survey found that
one-third of the engineers in California's (high-tech region known as)
Silicon Valley is of Indian decent. Now, more and more Indian
Americans are engaged and involved in U.S. political process, too.
Bobby Jindal made history last year by becoming the first Indian
American Governor, winning nearly 90-percent of the vote in the state
According to a recent study, 60 per cent of Indian Americans are
registered Democrats and this well-educated, affluent immigrant group
largely voted Democratic Party in the last Presidential Election. Kumar Narayan is an active member of the Indian-Americans for
Obama Campaign in Seattle, Washington. He says Indian American voters
see themselves more closely aligned with Democrats on a range of
economic, cultural and international issues, and that they see Barack
Obama best choice to re-establish the nation's standing in the world.
Lots of people, who have been principally against the Iraq War, have
been supporting Mr. Obama on issues. Senator Obama provided a more
mature voice that has a vision of taking US away from being unilateral
in its decisions.
However, the midterm elections showed that President Bush's
pro-India policies, and especially the completion of the U.S.-India
Civilian Nuclear Agreement, have swung a bigger share of the
Indian-American community's vote to the Republicans.
Dr. Piyush C. Agrawal is a prominent Indian American who was invited to
attend the Republic convention as Special Invitees of the campaign on
behalf of Senator & Mrs. McCain under "Friends & Family"
He says it's the Republican Party that can assure economic growth, and
that Senator John McClain has solid ideas to deal with the economic
Democratic Party is known usually to raise the taxes, and the
Republican Party is against the taxes and is also very sensible on the
expenditure side. Less government and less taxes do provide a growth in
(the) economy. We Indians are more business-oriented people. That is
why philosophically it suits us much more to be on the Republican side.
But Kumar Narayanan says Indian Americans, like other minorities,
feel more comfortable under the umbrella of the Democratic Party and
see Senator Obama as someone who represents their interests.
I think for Indians and especially immigrants, coming into this
country, you sense that the Democratic Party has always portrayed an
image of being more tolerant of diverse views, supporting the cause of
immigrants, making sure that immigrants get the same rights. Whether it
is the legal system or health-care system, they get the same rights and
privileges as citizens of this country.
But Piyush Agarwal says fundamental issues are involved in the
2008 presidential contest, and that Senator McCain has more
constructive positions than his opponent.
As far as Mr. Obama is concerned, he is intellectual, a brilliant young
man and belonging to a minority. This is very dear to us. But the issue
is: Mr. Obama represents what? And what he represents is Democratic
Party philosophy, which doesn't suit me. He says he is going to reduce
taxes for 95% of the people. Who are (is) going to pay? Does it mean
that people who are hard working, work 24 hours a day and make money,
should be punished because they are contributing to the society, as
well as 60% of taxes to the country. So, if he chokes the very source
which runs the government, this is a very questionable kind of approach.
Republican, Democrat or Independent, Indian Americans in all
walks of life say they have faith in an American system that affords
the opportunity to succeed to people of all backgrounds. The
achievement of someone like Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal
symbolizes that potential. In a VOA interview following his election
victory, he paid tribute to the country that gave him that opportunity.
I think it is
absolutely the strength of America. This is a country of opportunities
where people are judged on their ability and their performance. I think
that is very important. What makes the American system so successful l
is the fact that immigrants and their children born here can get ahead,
can do very well, just do hard work.
With education and income levels topping those of all ethnic
groups in the United States, Indian-Americans have certainly done well
in their adopted land. And one manifestation of their further
integration into the American society is the increasing role they have
in the American political system.