Wednesday, September 30, 2020

US Presidential Elections: Effect of Modi-Trump Relationship on Voters

This article is by

Share this article

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi in India-US bilateral meeting | Source: Twitter

With the US Presidential Elections scheduled to happen in just over a month, an important voter pool is emerging into the limelight for both contesting parties. The Indian American diaspora, one of the largest Asian American populations and a large pool of potential voters, currently stands at a crossroads. They face a choice that has been brought about by their unique connection to two men: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Donald Trump.

President Trump in India during Namaste Trump | Source: Twitter

Both have a lot in common, and both have definitely tried to capitalise on that. Trump and Modi have held rallies in each other’s country, which has influenced voters in both countries and drawn out massive crowds. An estimated 50,000 Indians gathered in Houston in September 2019 to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Howdy Modi” rally, reportedly the largest-ever gathering of a foreign political leader in the USA. Trump received the gift of a crowd over twice as large as that at Modi’s Namaste Trump rally in Gujarat in February 2020.

Indian American voters have historically tended to vote for the Democratic Party: as recently as the 2016 elections, a large majority voted for Hillary Clinton. While that may remain true for the younger voters, the older generation seems to be leaning more to the right, as events in the homeland have led to majoritarian and communal support for the authoritarian PM Modi.  Al Mason, who works with the Trump Victory Indian American Finance Committee, claimed to have conducted an analysis of voter sentiments in the states of Michigan, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. According to him, a “mass exodus” can be expected: hundreds of thousands of Indian American potential voters switching sides to favour Trump.

The worsening and brutal situation in Kashmir, increasingly polarised religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims, as well as increase in lynchings against Dalits and other oppressed castes is becoming an important driving force for Indian diaspora in deciding who to vote for. Trump’s Islamophobic and anti-China sentiments may be striking a cord with the Indian American diaspora, since most of them are uppercaste, affluent Hindus— mirroring the political majority in India. Additionally, at least some Indian Americans are surely misconstruing Democrats’ criticism of Modi’s policies as a criticism of India— especially when it comes from Indian American members of the House of Representatives— leading them to feel defensive towards both.

Indian American Trump supporters are rallying strongly behind him, with organisations such as The Texas India Forum and Hindus4Trump claim to possess a large pool of funds and members geared towards making Trump 2020 a reality.

On the other hand, concerns regarding visas and green cards seem to be diminishing among the Indian diaspora already settled in America, despite the mounting pressure from Trump’s largely white and Christian base to keep cracking down on immigration. Indian origin supporters of Trump, in India as well as the USA, seem convinced that the visa reforms will eventually work out in their favour. It isn’t hard to see that given the massive amount of support Trump receives from (and provides to) white supremacists, it would actually be in the best interests of Indian Americans to not vote for him.

Biden’s recent decision to choose Kamala Harris as his running mate for Vice President could prove to be an important aspect for Indian American voters. Harris is of South Indian ancestry from her mother’s side, and being one of the first South Asian women to be on the ticket for a position of major power has the potential to influence voters who want to see more representation on the political stage. You can read more in our deep dive on Kamala Harris, including her views and policies regarding India, here at Kamala Harris: A Look At Joe Biden’s Running Mate.

In response to Harris becoming running mate and the praise it received from Indians, Trump released a commercial showing him and Modi together, and applauding the support Trump receives from Indian Americans. Democrats are also ramping up their efforts and releasing targeted advertisements in multiple languages. Biden and his senior advisors addressed the community on August 15, Indian Independence Day; a month before that the Democratic National Committee Chairman addressed a virtual gathering of 800 Indian American prospective voters along with a former ambassador to India.

While there are quite a few who support one but denounce the other, the similarities between Modi and Trump lead to a general trend of supporting one invariably leading to support for the other, and vice-versa. Both Democrats and Republicans recognise the precarious position that Indians all over the world, including in the United States, are in right now; opinions are shifting and solidifying, and performance of this particular demographic in the upcoming election could very well surprise the community itself.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

Read More