Washington, Jan. 5: Stirred by the success of Barack Obama in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, Indian Americans are hedging their bets over the final choice by the party as its next American presidential candidate.
An organisation called "South Asians for Obama" (SAFO)yesterday sent out a press release claiming that" South Asian American volunteers played an active and important role in canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts that led to Senator Barack Obama's (Democrat-Illinois) decisive and historic victory" in Iowa.
"The record turnout of over 230,000 people in the Democratic caucus included many first-time caucus-goers from the South Asian American community", the press release claimed.
SAFO, for the record, was formed in March-April last year almost simultaneously in Washington and Los Angeles, but a perusal of its calendar reveals very little activity in support of Obama.
For all of December, when the Iowa caucuses were becoming a survival struggle for Obama, SAFO's calendar lists only one "foreign policy discussion"with the Senator on its calendar.
Indeed, on the day of the Iowa caucuses, SAFO was helping to coordinate a volunteer trip from New York to Nashua in New Hampshire, where the next Democratic primary is due on Tuesday.
In marked contrast, Indian Americans raised over two million dollars in June for the then Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton at one event in New York alone, which was attended by civil aviation minister Praful Patel, businessman S P Hinduja and spiritual adviser Deepak Chopra, among others.
There have been similar, if smaller, fundraisers by Indian Americans for Clinton all across the US.
The Indian community in the US is famous for being on the winning side even if it means an American version of aya ram gaya ram politics,notorious in India.
In Maryland, life-long supporters of the Democratic party, including a number of political appointees in the state administration, switched sides almost overnight when a Republican was elected state governor in 2002 after 36 years.
There is also a popular joke in America -- which has a high ring of truth -- that many Indians are Democrats when they arrive in the US, but they switch to the Republican party as they become affluent.
The joke is a take on the poll slogan in one presidential campaign long ago that "if you want to live like a Republican, vote for the Democrats".
Obama alienated Indian Americans in June when his campaign circulated a document attacking Clinton's record on outsourcing of jobs to India, attending Indian-American fund-raisers and contemptuously dubbed her as "Democrat from Punjab.
"In ensuing furore, Obama did some damage control and stated on record that the document did not reflect "my views or my attitudes, and didn't reflect my long-standing friendship with the Indian-American community." But the incident distanced him from many Indian Americans.
Yesterday's SAFO press release claimed that "in the closing weeks of the campaign in Iowa, South Asian American volunteers – including Asim Mishra and Palak Shah – braved the cold weather in Iowa to ensure that Obama's rising poll numbers translated into actual participation in the caucuses.
"It also claimed that "South Asian American actor Kal Penn made multiple appearances in Iowa throughout December to speak in support of Senator Obama"although it was not clear if Penn's appearances were organised by SAFO.
In October last year, Obama set up an Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders National Leadership Council,which includes many Americans of Indian origin. Their numbers are sure to swell if the winner in Iowa repeats his success in New Hampshire next week and South Carolina later this month.(