- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Prominent businessman Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar said he’s donating $2 million to Republican candidates in the run-up to next year’s elections as he announced the formation Tuesday of the Republican Hindu Coalition, hoping to turn Indian-Americans into a powerful voting bloc.

Mr. Kumar said his own pledge will be part of some $10 million the new group hopes to donate to GOP candidates over the next year as it pushes Republicans to compete for Indian-Americans, who traditionally lean toward the Democratic Party.

Mr. Kumar stood alongside coalition honorary chairman Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and 2012 GOP presidential candidate and several current members of Congress, who said national security concerns could be the key to winning Indian-Americans’ votes.

“There is a direct tie between what happened in Paris and what happened several years ago in Mumbai,” Mr. Gingrich said. “There is a common threat and it’s only appropriate that the world’s largest democracy in numbers and the world’s most powerful democracy in military power should be natural allies fighting on behalf of civilization. So I see this organization as potentially playing a very important role in being a bridge between America and India and across all the world, the Hindu community.”

The coalition hopes to recruit some 400 members to raise money and try to woo Indian-American voters. Eventually they hope to recruit Hindu-Americans to run for office as Republicans.

“Candidates will come later. Candidates will come in time. First of all, Hindu-Americans are just not politically active. They concentrate on just making a living and getting into business, being entrepreneurs and all that, they are not focused on politics,” said Mr. Kumar, a businessman and CEO of AVG Advanced Technologies. “We need to change that, and we are changing that slowly.”

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For now, Mr. Kumar is focused on getting Republican candidates elected to nationwide offices, supporting those who support pressure to rid Pakistan of its nuclear arsenal, accomplishing “minimum government for maximum governance,” and encouraging a positive relationship with India.

There are nearly 3 million Indian-Americans in the United States, with a median annual household income of $88,000 — almost twice the national median. They are also the most highly educated minority in the country, with 68 percent holding bachelor’s degrees, compared to 28 percent nationally.

They are also reliably Democratic, with President Obama winning 84 percent of their votes in 2008.

Two of the most prominent Indian-American politicians today — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — are Republicans, but they are both Christian, and the coalition hopes to push more Hindu-Americans into Republican politics.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the GOP’s pitch should appeal to anyone who favors entrepreneurship.

“The Republican Party is the natural home of people who are in favor of growth and opportunity. The Democrats are the party of big government and debts and taxes and overregulation,” he said. “So people who are drawn to the private sector will find a home with the Republican Party.”

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• Anjali Shastry can be reached at ashastry@washingtontimes.com.

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