Washington: Many disparaged Indian-American industrialist Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar when he donated close to a million dollars to the Trump campaign.
However, today, Mr. Kumar is a power broker not just for Indian-Americans chasing opportunities in the new administration but apparently for the Indian officials seeking contacts with Trump aides.
Whilst, NDTV introduced him as “The man with a direct line to Trump” Diaspora website, The American Bazar, called him “The most influential Indian-American power broker” in DC.
“I would like to be the bridge between the two sides,” Kumar said.
“I have arranged two big meetings between Indian officials and leading figures in the Trump team.”
Kumar says he and his Republican Hindu Coalition mobilized Hindu Indian-Americans votes in swing states like Florida.
They believed Trump was the anti-terrorism candidate, and would help India and US see greater collaboration in defense, energy and manufacturing.
Muslim Supporter – Sajid Tarar:
Apart from Sikh-American Jesse Singh, Pakistani-American Muslim Sajid Tarar also sided with Mr. Trump at the peak of his anti-Muslim barbs. Their own communities pilloried them for doing so. One Exit Poll suggested more than three-quarters of Muslims voted for Clinton.
Mr Tarar’s Facebook inbox was overloading with negative messages, calling him a “disgrace to Pakistan and Islam”.
However, on the morning of 9 November, his phone would not stop ringing. Mr. Tarar had more than 80 messages congratulating him on Mr. Trump’s victory and how he had made Pakistan proud.
“Pakistan embassy reached me to facilitate a call between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the President-elect,” he said.
“I sent out a few emails and the call happened,” says Mr Tarar, a real estate businessperson.
“The ambassador later called to thank me.”
Mr Singh was labelled a “traitor” for supporting Trump and claims to have been subjected to “personal attacks at community gatherings”.
“I was always confident that he would win. I also realised that when he wins, our community will be nowhere on his radar.
“So, despite all the hate messages I decided to stick with him,” says Mr Singh.
Community members with resumes, looking for jobs in the new administration, have approached both Mr Tarar and Mr Singh.
On Saturday, they were also part of the group leading the prayers at the National Cathedral as part of Mr Trump’s inauguration celebrations.
The question, which now arises, is with the need for photo-ops gone; will there still be a role for them in the coming days?
Mr. Kumar, who was part of the transition team on finance, says he is working to triple the amount of trade between the US and India and create jobs in both countries.
He says he has always been a strong advocate for “establishing a Hindu-American voice on public policy”.
Does that mean seeking a position in the Trump administration?
“I have been my own boss in the past 44 years. However, I will be happy to help where I can be most of service,” says Mr Kumar, adding it would be too premature to talk about specific posts.
When probed further, he did seem interested in the ambassador’s job to India or a position in the commerce department.