CLEVELAND, OH (TIP): As 16 Indian American delegates pledged to support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the party’s national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, several long-time party supporters said they were still on the fence about the nominee.
Trump won the nomination July 19 evening after each state announced their delegate vote counts, based on primary elections and caucuses. Trump won 1,725 votes; he needed 1,237 to clinch the nomination. Real estate broker Subba Kolla, a delegate from Virginia, announced the votes from his State during the delegate count. Kolla is the first-ever Indian American delegate from Virginia to the Republican convention.
“I’m still concerned about Trump,” Sudhir Parikh, founder of the Indian American Republican Council, told India-West. “Trump is too anti-immigrant, too anti-minority, and anti-trade. He sticks to his point of view and I’m not sure this represents the views of the Republican Party,” said the New Jersey physician, a prominent fundraiser for the Bush presidential dynasty.
“I have not decided yet whether to vote for Trump. I’m not going to sit this election out, but I will wait for four months – until the general election – to see what emerges,” said Parikh, noting that many Republicans will follow conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s call to action and vote for a third party candidate.
Florida cardiologist Zachariah P. Zachariah, who has attended every Republican convention since 1992, told India-West he would not be attending this year. “It’s going to take a while for Trump to unify the party and all the people he’s alienated: Hispanics, Muslims and women,” said the long-time Republican Party fundraiser in an earlier interview with this publication.
Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal also did not attend the convention. Jindal was one of 17 Republican presidential candidates during the primary elections, but dropped out last November after consistently-low polling numbers.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley – a Republican – declined an invitation to speak at the convention. Haley said she would attend the meet, but maintain a low profile.
Republican National Convention Committeewoman-elect from California Harmeet Dhillon dismissed party naysayers and told India-West she was happy to support Trump, primarily because of his plans for economic recovery.
“The concept of economic recovery is a universal concept,” said Dhillon, noting that Trump’s proposed initiatives will benefit the nation’s poor. “Donald Trump’s message is about unity, coming together as a country, and talking to each other,” said the Indian American attorney, adding that she does not believe in hyphenated identities.
On the first day of the convention, several states staged a protest on the convention floor, calling for a roll call vote that would allow each delegate to theoretically “vote his conscience,” and perhaps show support for a nominee other than Trump. Dhillon noted that the renegade move “lost overwhelmingly.”
“This was a tactic to slow down proceedings and grandstand for the cameras,” she said, adding there is a hard core contingency who simply does not like Trump, and a faction of former Republican presidential nominee Ted Cruz that is attempting to shore up support for the senator from Texas’s possible run in 2020.
Dhillon said she supports Trump’s choice of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. “Pence will unify the conservatives in the party who are still looking for Trump’s bona fides,” she told India-West, adding: “Pence’s record on economic recovery in Indiana has been outstanding.”
The former chairwoman of the San Francisco Republican Party, Dhillon will accede to the post of California RNC committeewoman after the convention ends July 21.
Dhillon delivered an invocation July 19, on the second day of the convention, ahead of the state roll call vote to confirm Trump as the party’s candidate. Pulling a scarf over her head, Dhillon recited the Ardas – a Sikh prayer – in Punjabi, then delivered remarks in English.
“It is an honor as an American and the vice chair of the California Republican party to represent the fifth-largest religion in the world. We look to the one God above for guidance, and a reminder to have humility, truth, courage, service, justice for all and gratitude for all our creator has given to us,” she said.
“Please bless these delegates from all over this great nation you have created with the integrity to reform faithfully our sworn duty to nominate leaders to take America in the right direction. Please protect us from evil and create prosperity for all Americans.”
“Please give us the courage to make the right choices, to make common cause with those we may disagree for the greater good of our nation,” said Dhillon, speaking during prime time at the convention.
This was the first time the Ardas has been recited at either party’s national convention.
Earlier in the day, prominent Republican Party fundraiser Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar held a press conference with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, chairman of the Republican Hindu Coalition. Kumar – who co-founded the coalition with Sampat Shivangi – told India-West that earlier this month Gingrich had arranged for him to meet Trump for a one-to-one meeting to clarify his stance on several issues.
At the July 9 meeting, Trump reportedly told Kumar he supports the H-1B program and bringing in talent from all over the world. Trump did not state whether he supported an expansion of the program, which is overwhelmingly used by Indians.
Trump also told Kumar that he wants to maintain a close partnership with India. “We currently have the strongest pro-India platform anyone has ever written,” said the businessman.
“India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner. The dynamism of its people and the endurance of their democratic institutions are earning their country a position of leadership not only in Asia but throughout the world,” reads the 2016 Republican Party platform.
“We encourage the Indian government to permit expanded foreign investment and trade, the key to rising living standards for those left out of their country’s energetic economy. For all of India’s religious communities, we urge protection against violence and discrimination.”
“Republicans note with pride the contributions to our country that are made by our fellow citizens of Indian ancestry,” stated the platform.
Kumar said he supports Trump’s initiative of greater scrutiny of Muslims, including those already in the country and Muslims attempting to enter the U.S.
Trump also reportedly told Kumar that he wants to completely cut off all aid to Pakistan. “He recognizes Pakistan for what it is: a nation of thugs,” stated Kumar.
At the July 19 press conference, Gingrich said the Republican Hindu Coalition was in a great position to support Trump’s win this fall.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would make a natural fit, taking the relationship between the two largest democracies to a new high and make the world a safer and better place, said Gingrich. “Trump (as president) would be a very tough defender of the United States. Mr. Modi is a very tough defender of India. Both understand they are trying to achieve things for their own countries and getting to the deal,” he said, as reported by PTI.
“Here you have the world’s largest democracy and the world’s most powerful democracy coming together in a way that is very important and vital to the future of Asia and to the world,” he said.
The RHC held press conferences throughout the week with House Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions and House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce.
(Source PTI/ India West)