Donald Trump is every diehard bhakt’s fantasy-purush. And it’s not just because of the orange hair.
He rushes in where even Narendra Modi fears to tread.
At his appearance at the Republican Hindu Coalition jamboree for victims of terror in New Jersey, Trump happily conflated India and Hindu.
“I am a big fan of Hindu, and I am a big fan of India”, he told a crowd of some 5,000 desis cheering on the GOP candidate for President (and Prabhudeva and Malaika Arora). And then in typical Trump doublespeak (and we mean that literally) reiterated it by saying “Big, big fan”.
Did Trump mean Hinduism? Who knows. He's not a man to be hemmed in by ism-s anyway.
But why does Trump love them Hindus, I mean Indians? Let us count the reasons.
1. Money Money Money. Shalabh Kumar, the man behind the Republican Hindu Coalition, is putting his money where his mouth is. He and his wife have given $1.1 million to the Trump campaign. So it’s no surprise Trump showed up for what was billed as Republican Hindu Coalition’s “Great Family Fun All Day” and fundraiser for victims of terror in a non-battleground state just weeks before D-day.
2. Property Property Property. He has real estate projects in India. “I actually have (real estate) jobs going up in India. (It’s) tremendously successful. It is an amazing country.” And he loves Mumbai. It’s a place that he understands.
3. The Good Immigrant. “Generations of Indians and Hindu-Americans have strengthened our country...their values of hard work, education and enterprise have truly enriched our nation.” Indian Americans have the “highest rate of entrepreneurship and college graduation” in the United States Of America. Words like these always warm the cockles of our hearts. Trump is as they say truly the bee’s knees, make that the spelling bee’s knees.
Incidentally, does Trump know Indians are also the fastest growing group of “illegal immigrants” in the US thanks to visa overstays? And it’s number 4 after Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala in terms of source of unauthorised migrants to the US? Does Shalabh Kumar know?
4. Narendra Modi. He’s an “energetic” man and a “great” leader. He wants to do some “serious bureaucratic trimming” in the US just like Modi promised in India.
But will Modi have the same bromance with a Trump as he did with Barack Obama? Will Trump be able to top Obama’s little bio note for Modi in Time? Will Trump, a notorious germophobe like being hugged by Modi? Will he ever be able to trump the Modi-nama suit?
5. BFF. We will be best friends forever. “There isn’t going to be any relationship more important” than the US-India relationship. Vladimir Putin, eat your heart out. And we’ll have “tremendous trade deals”.
Of course, he did not mention that a pro-Trump PAC has also been putting out ads calling Hillary Clinton the pro-outsourcing candidate, showing clips of her in New Delhi to underscore that she can’t be trusted with American jobs. All that (along with mocking call centre accents) is reserved for his whiter rallies. This is known as having your curry and eating it too.
But the entire event and Trump’s outreach to desis was predicated on one word. Although he didn’t mention it, it hovered over the event like Banquo’s ghost. It was the P-word. And nope it’s not Prabhudeva. And it’s not the other P-word, the one that Trump likes to grab either. It’s Pakistan. Hillary Clinton is being painted as Pakistan’s candidate, and Trump as the nemesis of ISIS.
Indian-Americans are overwhelmingly Democrat. But why should Democrats take desi votes for granted? Shalabh Kumar deserves credit for making his presence felt among Republicans and making them pay attention to the community. And he certainly deserves credit for getting the GOP candidate for President to show up at a desi event. But here are a few tips for the next time around for a better show.
1. Please don’t get Munna to do the Photoshop for free.
Just pay a proper designer. Those posters of Sonia Gandhi and Hillary Clinton wearing rams’ horns (does that mean they are livestock rather than the Devil’s incarnate?) and trying to “get Modi” for the 2002 Gujarat riots are just not doing it. And what’s up with having our favourite 56-inch-chested iron man looking so scared of two women? Modi does not put his hands up like a scared pussy cat, Shaili-ji.
2. Please hire a proper choreographer.
We have Bollywood’s reputation to uphold. That skit of two couples ballroom dancing before the light-sabre wielding Arabish-gibberish shouting hooded terrorists (or as someone described them “jihadi Jedis”) attack was just too pathetic. The dancing couples were eventually rescued by US Navy Seals along with a patriotism explosion of the Pledge of Allegiance, a dance to Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA and conch-shells.
We would also have liked the dancing couples to deliver a few kicks and karate chops instead of cowering and letting the Seals do all the work. Also next time the Seals should break into Jai Ho.
3. Please can we get better posters?
Indian-Americans have covered themselves with literary glory as wordsmiths. We have given the world Salman Rushdie and Jhumpa Lahiri. Surely, we could have done better than have posters with slogans like “Trump for faster green cards”?
4. Please can we reserve the family values card for a later date and a different candidate? Shalabh Kumar thinks that Indians are naturally conservative and thus a better fit for the Republican Party. That might well be true. The problem is many of Trump’s supporters in the GOP’s big tent are rather brown-phobic and non-discriminating in their anti-brown-bigotry and don’t make brown people feel welcome.
Also given his checkered history of marriage and adultery, Trump isn’t exactly the tip-top family values candidate. The ongoing parade of women accusing him of harassment makes that family values platform an even harder sell. At this stage, his “extreme vetting” campaign promise is starting to sound like “extreme petting” instead.
5. Please let all media covering the event know that Prabhu Deva cannot be described as just a Michael Jackson impersonator. Ever. That is truly sacrilege. Period.
By the way did Trump tell the crowd about his other and far more obvious Indian connection? The Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City which opened in 1990? At that time it was dubbed “The Eighth Wonder of the World” and was the crown jewel of Trump Entertainment Resorts.
Perhaps Trump forgot to mention it. Or maybe it was not the right time to bring it up. The casino is now owned by Carl Icahn. And it just went bust this week.
And judging by this show, Trump’s outreach to desis is also headed for a bust. A poll says support for Trump among Indian Americans hovers at around 7 percent. Shalabh Kumar hopes that he moved it up a few notches with the 3 P strategy to desi hearts – Pakistan, platitudes and Prabhu Deva.
(Feature image source: AFP)