Conservative-minded Indian-Americans are forming a new Republican group seeking to mobilize their large and powerful community to back GOP candidates in what the founder calls “a very important time in history.”
Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, a prominent Indian-American businessman, has taken the lead in forming the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) in order to promote conservative principles such as free markets and limited government, with a focus on how they relate to Indian Americans. The organization is modeled after groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition, and plans to spend big in next year's elections.
"This is a very important time in history. The country has suffered so much so dramatically in the last eight years, and another four or eight years of the same direction, the U.S. as we know it will come to an end,” Kumar told FoxNews.com.
“We are actually giving away our economic future to China, the world is a lot less secure today than it was seven years ago, and conservatives and Republicans have to win and take the White House. This is the time when Hindu Americas should very actively get involved,” Kumar said.
There are approximately 3.7 million Indian-Americans in the U.S. and about 50 percent of those are Hindu, according to Pew Research data. (Though the group is called the Republican Hindu Coalition, organizers say it's open to all faiths.) Kumar said that while many Hindus are ideologically conservative-leaning, they have not yet mobilized to vote for Republicans.
"We are actually giving away our economic future to China, the world is a lot less secure today than it was seven years ago, and conservatives and Republicans have to win and take the White House."
- Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar
“They make the highest per capita income of any income group, are highest givers to charity and among the least dependent on government. ... Yet with all these demographics cited, Hindu Americans tend to be like other minorities when it comes to voting – they are Democrats or are neutral, or they just don’t vote,” Kumar said.
Yet the RHC is hoping to change this, and has gained the backing of some big-name Republicans, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich agreeing to serve as honorary chairman for the group. Kumar says they have received a great deal of support from the RNC and high-ranking congressional Republicans, and are hoping to organize a congressional delegation to travel to India after they formally launch the coalition next month.
Additionally the RHC is hoping that in light of the 2014 election of business-minded Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the U.S. and India can draw closer on a number of issues, including getting the U.S. to rely more on India for manufacturing than China.
“Fiscal discipline, the free enterprise system, limited government, a strong national defense, and a strong posture against terrorism worldwide. These are some of the core issues and can create a strong bond between the two largest democracies on this earth,” Kumar said.
Kumar was a Democrat until 1979 when he met then-Governor Ronald Reagan and was later part of a small business council that met with Reagan several times a year to share their views. He says his recent attendance at the Reagan Library for Wednesday’s GOP debate was an emotional moment.
"It was a great experience, the first time I attended a presidential debate and it just so happened that I was taped meeting Donald Trump," he said.
Kumar said that while the RHC is proud that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal – whose family is from India – is running, they have not yet backed any of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination in 2016. However, Kumar has pledged to personally donate at least $2 million and raise millions more for the eventual Republican nominee, Senate and House candidates and Republican groups including the RNC.
When asked why he is doing this now, Kumar told FoxNews.com the Obama administration policies have been so detrimental that a change is urgently needed in Washington.
“We are looking more and more like India of the '70s or the '80s. In India we say 'Babu Raj' – which means the whole country gets controlled by bureaucrats,” Kumar said. “President Obama is pushing us in that direction, creating Babu Raj in the United States.”
Kumar is chairman of AVG Advanced Technologies. The RHC is registering as a 501(c)(4).