New Delhi, Sept. 16: If you think India cannot decide the fate of the American presidential election, maybe it's time to have second thoughts.
Only 10 days old, a Democrats in India campaign is gathering force far from the heat and dust kicked up by Republican George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry to register absentee American voters in India.
The small volunteer group of private citizens believes they are crucial voters whose ballots in November will determine who will be the next President. Posters of Democrats in India have appeared in the capital calling out to non-resident Americans of every descent to register their absentee votes.
With the example of hordes of non-resident Indians, occupying influential positions in the US and other countries but maintaining their Indian identity with enthusiasm, very much in sight, US citizens Carolyn Jerome and Sumana Brahman are rallying American citizens living in India to give back a little to their country.
Posters have been put up outside Faqir Chand and Sons, a well-known bookshop in Khan Market frequented by foreigners. The posters offer to cut through red tape and get absentee votes registered.
Democrats in India, set up by Carolyn and Sumana, has about 20 volunteers who have already registered some 70 voters in Delhi ' Americans and Indian Americans who work for international organisations and private businesses and their spouses.
Carolyn makes it clear that this is not a political exercise. 'We are private citizens and we have support from the American embassy and we do not speak for Democratic campaigns,' she said.
Loosely affiliated to the Democratic Party's official chapter, Democrats Abroad, Carolyn said: 'We are helping people to register as voters regardless of their party affiliation. This is a non-partisan interest.'
Khan Market shopowners are clueless that the US presidential election has made its presence felt in their environs. Anup Kumar of Faqir Chand and Sons said: 'I don't know who has put up these posters. Normally they do ask us but this time they did not.'
The Vasant Vihar market, another favourite haunt of foreigners in the capital, has also been targeted for postering. The group has set up tables to enlist voters at the American School in the capital and created a website to inform people and established chat rooms on the Internet.
'Remember elections 2000' Your absentee vote is critical this year. Request for your ballot now,' says the poster.
Postal ballots, as absentee votes are commonly called in India, account for a tiny percentage of total votes polled. However, big trouble can come in small packages, if elections turn extremely close as happened in the US elections in 2000 when Bush and Al Gore were deadlocked.
'We were not in operation in 2000 when the margin was extremely close. As a result, the presidency went to Bush. Globally, there are 7 million Americans who live abroad. That number of Americans is huge. We think Americans need to continue to be active abroad. Half of America did not vote last time. We are aware about how the rest of the world views America and we want to make sure that the voices of the opposition are heard.'
'We have read so much in the media about non-resident Indians who are in influential positions but are still maintaining an interest in their country. We want to do the same for Americans,' said Carolyn.
Sumana, a US citizen of Indian origin and a public health consultant who has been living in India for the last three years, said: 'What makes this election different is how global the effect of any political decision in the US is. Like there is a large and influential population of Indians living abroad, there are a lot of Americans living in India and their ballots do count.'