By Taylor Ha and Rebekah Sherry
Donald Trump lights the dihya, a traditional Indian candle used during the festival of Diwali, in his campaign’s latest ad targeting Indian-Americans. Released last Thursday three days before Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights – the 30-second ad is part of Trump’s attempt to win support from Indian-Americans, the latest ethnic group he is reaching out to in a last-ditch effort to win votes next Tuesday.
Seventy-nine percent of Indian-American voters are either inclined towards Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or other candidates, according to the Fall 2016 National Asian American Survey.
That number includes an Indian-American graduate student at Stony Brook University, and especially some of her Indian-American friends.
“If Trump does come to power, they will be leaving the country,” the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
Most Indian-American registered voters do not seem to favor Trump. But what are the stories of the 7 percent, from the aforementioned survey, who do?
Some 16,214 Indian-Americans live in Suffolk County, while another 44,182 reside in Nassau County, according to 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
That includes two brothers from Glen Head, Long Island: Prasanth and Anand Venigalla. Both plan on voting for Trump, but not for the same reasons.
“For a long time, I thought I would sit out this election. I was turned off by things he did,” Prasanth said. But ultimately, he viewed Trump as the lesser of two evils.
His brother Anand, on the other hand, who identifies with Libertarian values, likes that Trump isn’t afraid to oppose the majority.
“Trump has given some interesting trends to the country, especially in facing opposition from the left wing media and the neo-conservatives,” Anand, a freshman at LIU Post, said.
Another college student, Joshua Charles, a junior biology major at Stony Brook University, cannot condone everything Trump says. But at this point, Charles is unhappy with the current political system.
“I like the policies he’s [Trump’s] proposing,” he said. “Like many other people in the U.S., I’m fed up with the way things are.”
Then there’s Anand Ahuja, the Vice President of Indian Americans for Trump 2016 – a New Jersey based political action committee that aims to persuade American voters, particularly Indian-Americans, why Trump’s agenda is favorable.
“The law says that if you erase any evidence regarding an investigation intentionally or negligently, it is a crime,” Ahuja, who is also a lawyer in Hicksville, said. “In any other country, she [Clinton] would be a criminal, but in the U.S., the President of the country is endorsing her. It’s like we are not living in America, but we are living in a banana republic.”
Indian-Americans, who make up 19 percent of the overall Asian-American population, are the second largest Asian-American subgroup in the U.S.
Asian-Americans, including Indian-Americans, will make up 5 percent of voters nationwide by 2025, according to the Center for American Progress and AAPI Data. By 2044, that number is forecasted to rise to 10 percent.