US Presidential race: Prominent Indians back Obama

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New York, Feb 18: The 2008 US presidential election nominee, Democrat Barack Obama, seems to be gaining support in the Indian- American community.

Though it is not yet clear to what extent members of the community, which generally tends to back the Democrats more -- are supporting Mr Obama, who is trying to become the first African American president, prominent members pledged allegiance to him in the Democratic primary elections. Primaries are scheduled for tomorrow in Wisconsin and Hawaii, where Mr Obama was born.

Hollywood actor Kalpen Modi, better known as Kal Penn -- known for his performance in Harold and Kumar 'Go to White Castle', publicly stated that he would put his acting career on hold for the sake of campaigning full time for the democrat candidate.''The Namesake,'' a critically acclaimed film by Mira Nair based on a novel of the same name, also had a prominent role for Penn.

His campaign for Obama is not just limited to Indian and South Asian communities. Penn is campaigning mainstream.

Ann Lata Kalayil, a longtime supporter and a close friend of Obama is another prominent Indian-American supporter, who is currently the US senator elected from Illinois. She is the co-chairperson of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Council for Barack Obama. She is not only focusing on the Indians but also on the larger Asian community.

Former law secretary in Cleveland, Subodh Chandra, was unsuccessful in his attempt to contest for the attorney general of Ohio. He lost the Democratic primary in 2006. He is not contesting this year for the post and instead extending support to Mr Obama. ''He is still in the race and ahead in the delegate count holds promise for his campaign,'' Mr Chandra said.

Hrishi Karthikeyan, one of the original co-founders of South Asians for the Democrat, a grouping of desis supporting the Democratic candidate, was elated over the support the African American candidate received during the ''Super Tuesday'' vote.

After the so-called Potamac Primary contest, Kumar Barve endorsed The African-American. Mr Barve is the Maryland House Majority leader and is the longest serving Indian-American elected official. He is considered the dean of the Indian-American lawmakers.

Indian-Americans number nearly 3 million. Precise figures of how many of them are registered voters are not available. However, it is a widely known fact that many Indians have become US citizens in recent years. Though both the Democrats and the Republicans claim support from the Indian-American community, it is estimated that the community is split at 60:40 favoring the former.


UNI

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