This week did not shape up as Vishnu Gupta imagined. Gupta, president of Hindu Sena, a hardline Hindu nationalist group in India, had planned celebrations at multiple locations in the national capital, New Delhi, presuming Donald Trump's immediate victory in the U.S. presidential election.
As it became clear that Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden was getting closer to winning the 2020 presidential race, Gupta’s plans did not
materialise. He instead denounced the election results and supported the Trump campaign’s theory that counting in some states was rigged. “Trump has already claimed that these votes might be fake and all of this is fraud,” Gupta told VICE News. “We believe this because it’s impossible for Trump to lose.”
Every year since 2017 (when Trump became the U.S. president), Gupta’s group has been celebrating his birthday. “We have always supported Trump and will continue to do so,” said Gupta.
Earlier this week, Hindu Sena organised an elaborate prayer meeting for Trump’s victory in New Delhi.
As the projections indicated Biden’s probable victory, preceded by nail-biting contests in some swing states, Trump’s aides started pushing conspiracy theories that Democrats were manipulating the final tally.
Trump’s team also launched lawsuits in some key states including Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania to undermine the counting process.
His Indian fans back his moves. “I’m not aware of the American system that much but the court should intervene in this matter. Elections should be fair and we hope Trump wins”, Chandra Prakash Kaushik, president of Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, one of India’s oldest right-wing groups, told VICE News.
While the majority of Indians realise that the outcome of the U.S. presidential election will have no direct bearing on their lives, some like Gupta and Kaushik share a close affinity with Trump because of his nationalist rhetoric and views on Muslims.
In his first week in office, Trump announced a travel ban— tagged by critics as a “Muslim ban” – aimed to restrict entry to refugees and immigrants from at least seven Muslim-majority countries. In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a lenient version of this ban.
Trump first proposed such ban in the wake of a mass shooting in California in December 2015. He also propagated the theory that Muslims were celebrating 9/11.
“Both India and the U.S. are suffering from Islamic jihad. Donald Trump is one of the very few people who have spoken about this,” said Kaushik.
The fondness for Trump also stems from his perceived close relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2019, U.S.-based Indians organised the “Howdy Modi!” event in Houston, Texas, which was attended by both Modi and Trump.
In February this year, Modi hosted Trump in New Delhi even as initial reports of COVID-19 starting to spread in the country emerged, and parts of the national capital witnessed violence that left at least 50 people dead.
“He is a strong supporter of Hindus and that’s something very beneficial for our country. People who want to end terrorism will vote for Trump and would want him to be the president,” Jai Bhagwan Goyal, international working president of a right-wing group called United Hindu Front, told VICE News.
Experts, however, believe that support by fringe groups does not reflect the collective sentiment of the country. “It’s a strongish [sic] support but not really extensive,” Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, consulting foreign editor at the Hindustan Times, told VICE News. “Trump’s personal standing in India is about the same overall as every other U.S. president substantially less than George Bush, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.”
In 2017, Sulabh International, a charity that works hygiene and sanitation issues in India, rechristened a hamlet in north India as “Trump Village”. People in this Muslim majority village did not track the U.S. presidential race, but they are of the opinion that Joe Biden as the U.S. president would put a curb on Islamphobia.
Last month, Bussa Krishna Raju, a 33-year-old farmer in south India and one of Trump's biggest fans in the country, died from cardiac arrest. The news of Trump testing positive for COVID-19 had left him depressed.
As of publication time, Biden leads with 248 electoral votes to Trump's 214, according to the Associated Press. 270 electoral votes are needed to win the election.
With reports from Varsha Rani.
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