The November 3 presidential election has been billed as one of the most divisive in recent American history. The election is already setting records for turnout, and perhaps no two candidates are more at odds over the future of the country and the direction they want to take it in.
There are only a few hours before the US Election 2020 results are declared, and this race to the White House has been historic in ways more than one. For instance, the world is still in the middle of a global pandemic and the United States is recording around 80,000 new coronavirus cases daily.
Early trends show President Donald Trump has won Indiana, while his Democratic challenger Joe Biden is leading in the swing state of Florida and Georgia, indicate early counting trends. You can follow the live updates here.
While Indian Americans are in the spotlight more than ever this year owing to their growing influence and Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris (who is partly of Indian origin) as his running mate, Indians living in India have been diligently following updates on the election campaign for a totally different reason.
For one, to evaluate what the two contenders, Biden and Trump, say about India and Indians; on the other hand, a survey by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace shows that there is also a growing concern about what a Biden administration could mean for US-India ties, especially since current President Donald Trump already shares an apparent friendship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
We took a quick look at what Indians have been searching for on Google, a month prior to US Elections on November 3. Apart from generic queries about date and time, we noticed something interesting. In the first couple of weeks in October, interest around Joe Biden was relatively low in India. On the contrary, interest around Trump was quite high.Photo: Google Trends
Let’s take a look at what got Indians talking in the one month before the new American President is elected.
Kamala Harris — and her love for Indian food
One of the main reasons why billions of Indians will stay hooked to the news, anxiously awaiting the election results this year, is Kamala Harris, the first Indian-origin and first Black woman to be picked by a major American political party for the top post.
Harris was born to Jamaican American father and an Indian mother. Her mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer researcher, moved to the United States from Tamil Nadu for higher studies.
Recently, Harris spoke about her favourite Indian dishes - idli, with really good sambar and any kind of tikka - and of course, desis approve. In another old video that went viral after Harris announced her candidature, she appeared in an Instagram video with Indian American actor Mindy Kaling where the two were trying to cook a South Indian dish, the Masala Dosa.
Donald Trump called India “filthy"
Last week, Trump invited the wrath of Indians, even those who may have supported him, when he called our air filthy at the US Presidential Debate. He described the air in India and China as “filthy" as he denounced rival Joe Biden’s plans to tackle climate change.
“Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia, look at India — it’s filthy. The air is filthy," Trump said at the debate in Nashville.
The comment also came moments after Donald Trump said he wasn’t a racist. The irony of the comment aside, the remark did not go down too well with desis on social media.
Moreover, Trump kept speaking of how the air and water were cleaner in the United States. He also proceeded to make unverified claims about US having the best carbon emission numbers in 35 years. A New York Times report from 2019 showed that US accounts for 14% of the world’s carbon emissions.
Donald Trump criticised India’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic
In what was then deemed as a move that could jeopardise Trump’s popularity among Indian-American voters, the current US President lashed out at India’s handling of the pandemic and doubted the credibility of the country’s Covid statistics during the first Presidential debate.
Trump was responding to heated criticism from Joe Biden who had challenged the former about the rising Covid-19 toll in the US. Trump retorted, “You don’t know how many people died in India."
Trump’s comments, of course, weren’t received well back in India.
Trump Jr. plays the China card to woo Indians
Knowing that speaking about China would grab eyeballs in India, Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr said that Joe Biden is not good for India as he could be soft on China. Relations between India and China have been tense with the two countries facing off each other along their disputed border.
“We have to understand the threat of China and no one knows that probably better than Indian-Americans," Trump Jr told a group of supporters at an event in New York in late October. Trump Jr then blatantly went on to say that Joe Biden would not be good for India.
Joe Biden values “friendship" with India
Slamming President Donald Trump for his comment on India’s air pollution, Joe Biden said he and his running mate Kamala Harris deeply value America’s partnership with India.
“President Trump called India ‘filthy’. It’s not how you talk about friends and it’s not how you solve global challenges like climate change," Biden said in a tweet.
“Kamala Harris and I deeply value our partnership and will put respect back at the centre of our foreign policy," Biden said in a tweet. In an op-ed for an India West, Biden emphasized on how his administration would work wonders for the ties between the two countries and wrote, “The Obama-Biden years were some of the best we’ve ever had between our two countries. A Biden-Harris administration will build on that great progress and do even more. We can and should be natural allies."
“We’ll open markets and grow the middle class in both the United States and India, and confront other international challenges together, like climate change, global health, transnational terrorism and nuclear proliferation," said Biden.
Trump’s promise to scrap lottery-based selection system for H1B visas
The Trump administration has proposed to do away with the computerised lottery system to award H-1B work visas to foreign technology professionals and substitute it with a wage-level-based selection procedure, a decision that is expected to counter the stress on the salaries of US workers.
The DHS said the proposed amendment is expected to help address the downward stress on the wages of American workers that is generated because of a yearly influx of relatively lower-paid, new cap-subject H-1B workers.
The H-1B visa, most desired by Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that permits US companies to hire foreign workers in speciality occupations that need theoretical or technical expertise. The H-1B program was set up under President George HW Bush to allow companies to fill up niche jobs as the tech sector started to witness a boom and it became difficult to find qualified workers. Many companies maintain they still need the program to fill key positions.
Notably, US President Donald Trump, who has been vocal about regulating the US’ immigration policies, on June 22, signed the executive order which put a temporary ban on issuing new H-1B and L-1 visas till December 31, another factor that may play a decisive role in the US elections.
(With inputs from agencies)