New York: Indian-American voters can turn the tide in key battleground states like Florida, Ohio and Colorado, and decide the fate of White House aspirants Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump who are in a dead-heat in major polls just days ahead of the election, community leaders say.
Former chief of medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital and community leader Bhupi Patel asked the Indian-Americans to vote for Clinton especially in Florida, Ohio, Colorado, saying the vote of the community in the red states (Republican leaning) "is going to carry 30-40 per cent more weight".
Patel cited the famous 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George Bush that had stretched into December after recounting in Florida with Bush ultimately winning by a margin of just 537 votes.
"The Indian-American vote has value. If you can lose an election by 400-500 votes, then in places like Florida, the 30-40 per cent weight of the Indian-American vote will be important and both Democrats and Republicans will notice our value," Patel said during a press conference here this week.
Noting that 70 per cent of Indian-Americans are Democrats, he asked the community in the red states to vote for Clinton, especially in Ohio, Florida, Colorado.
"Make sure you go and cast your vote, it is going to carry a lot of weight in these states," Patel said.
Citing immigration, healthcare and education as issues of key importance to the Indian-American community, Patel said Clinton's agenda in these areas will benefit the community and urged them to vote for her.
Prominent hotelier and former commissioner in President Clinton's White House Initiative on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders Mike Patel, a Clinton supporter, said it took Al Gore only a few hundred votes to lose the elections in 2000 and "so the Indian-American cannot be complacent".
"The Indian-American voters in Ohio, Florida have to come out and vote because these are the states that are needed to win the election," Mike Patel said.
Bhupi Patel said the Indian-American community has to make its vote count since "it is very important for the community to be involved in the political process otherwise no one notices you. We are three million in number and are a very powerful community, contributing to the American fabric in a lot of ways. We must make our presence felt and we must exercise our voting rights".
Indian-American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, Chairman of the group 'Indian-Americans for Democrats and Friends of Hillary for President', also cited the presidential election of 2000 where Al Gore lost with a small margin, saying "the Indian-American votes means a lot".
In states where there is a very tight race each vote counts a lot, he said.
Urging the community to vote for Clinton, Chatwal said it should not think "we are a minority as your vote can make the next President of the US".
Eminent New York attorney Anand Ahuja, Vice President of political action committee 'Indian Americans For Trump 2016', however, offered a different view, saying it is very difficult to predict which side the India-Americans will go and to expect that they can in a way influence the results is like "living in a fantasy land".
While acknowledging that "each vote counts", Ahuja told PTI that "a lot of Indian-Americas are hard-core Democrats but they are also silent supporters of Trump and one of the reason for this is his pro-Hindu position".
He said most of the Indian-Americans he comes across like Trump's policies but not his temperament.
Ahuja said it is very difficult to predict which party will win the elections as the race has gotten very tight in the final lap.
He said Trump addressing the Republican Hindu Coalition rally in New Jersey "reflects that each and every vote counts and this time we do not know whether blue states (Democratic-leaning) may become red (Republican leaning)".
Given the problems Clinton created for herself, especially through the email controversy, "Trump was going to get the presidency on a platter but he thought if Clinton can create her own problems why should I stay behind".
"He should have started behaving like a presidential candidate right after the nomination. It would have been much easier for him to become President but for his loud mouth. Now the race is neck to neck," Ahuja added.