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This Indian-American Man Is One Of Donald Trump's Biggest Donors

Shalabh Kumar has announced a fundraiser for Trump on 15 October.

07/10/2016 8:34 PM IST | Updated 10/10/2016 2:09 PM IST
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Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Donald Trump may find himself embroiled in one controversy after another, but one supporter is trying to convince a largely Democrat-leaning Indian-American community to vote for the Republican nominee for president.

Indian-American industrialist Shalabh Kumar hit the headlines when he and his wife together donated nearly $900,000 (around Rs 6 crores) towards Donald Trump's campaign in July, becoming one of his biggest individual donors. Currently, the 68-year-old Chicago-based businessman is trying to rally more people to his cause by organising a star-studded fundraiser where Trump will address a gathering of "Hindu-Americans".

At a press conference in Delhi, Kumar announced that the ticketed charity concert and cultural event would be held at New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center on 15 October. It is hosted by one of the organisations he leads, the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), and features Bollywood and Tollywood celebrities such as Prabhudeva, Malaika Arora, Ram Charan, Shriya Saran and Sophie Chowdhry. But the star attraction of the "Humanity United Against Terrorism" event will be none other than Trump, who will address an expected 10,000 "Hindu-Americans" and "Indian-Americans".

The proceeds from the event will be donated to victims of terror in various countries, with half of it going to Kashmiri Pandits and a significant chunk to Hindu refugees from Bangladesh. The organisation had earlier advertised for the charity event on 24 September, but it was then postponed to October.

Republican Hindu Coalition

Kumar, who is also the Chairman of the Indian-American Advisory Council of the Republican Party, claimed this is the first time Trump will be addressing a single ethnic group during his campaign, and has described the fundraiser as a "historic event" that can change the future of "geopolitics".

"Never in the history of the US, we have had an event like this, where a candidate of the US presidential elections is attending a Hindu event, three weeks before the elections," Kumar said, adding that RHC and the event had Trump's enthusiastic support.

The Amritsar-born businessman says when he first landed in the US in 1969 to study engineering, he initially voted for the Democratic Party. However, he changed his political leanings after an encounter with Ronald Reagan.

In an interview with The Hill, Kumar revealed he first met Trump in July and was impressed with his views on Muslim profiling, his policies on Pakistan and a stronger US-India relationship.

Kumar, who owns the electronics manufacturing company AVG Advanced Technologies, is also one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's most powerful supporters in the US. Another organisation he heads, the National Indian American Public Policy Institute, had lobbied extensively for the revoking of Modi's visa ban in the US, even taking a delegation of mostly Republican US Congress members to visit the leader in 2013. "We view him as a leader who is for development and the same goes for Trump," Kumar said.

Last November, Kumar founded the RHC, which is hosting the fundraiser on 15 October. It is modelled after the political lobbying group, Republican Jewish Coalition, which was founded in 1985 to promote the interests of Jewish Republicans. "Our aim is to get Hindu-American voices heard at the policy table," Kumar said.

RHC, which claims to have 10,000 members, calls itself the "collective voice of conservative Hindu-Americans". Kumar says the term "Hindu-Americans" includes people of Indian origin as well as Hindus from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Caribbean and Fiji.

The RHC and Kumar, however, face an uphill task.

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 3.2 million Indian-Americans in the US, with 65% supporting the Democrats. Only 51% of Indian-Americans identified themselves as Hindu.

Describing Trump as a "businessman rather than a politician", Kumar expressed his admiration for Trump's views on terrorism. Despite Trump's hard-line stance on immigration, proposed ban on Muslims entering the US, anti-outsourcing campaign videos, and mocking a call centre worker's accent, Kumar said the Republican candidate was not anti-outsourcing and was not targeting Indians.

"Donald Trump has not a drop of blood which is anti-immigrant," Kumar said. "He wants legal and skill-based immigration." He also argued that Trump's election as the president would fast-track pro-India legislations, which would enable India to easily procure military weapons from American companies and expedite the process of getting a green card for Indians working in the US.

"RHC's goal is for the 21st century to be an Indo-American century rather than a Sino-American century, where the world's two largest democracies work as two superpowers and provide stability throughout the world," Kumar said.

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