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Jan 03, 2008 at 06:10pm IST

Dem or Rep?Indian Americans divided over vote

Des Moines (Iowa): In Iowa's Indian American community, being a Republican Party supporter is a lonely task. But those backing Republican presidential candidates say they have strong reasons for doing so.

A Republican voter, Nirmalendu K Pandeya says, "At this time, I'm all for Senator John McCain. By his past history, by his having been a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a guest of Hanoi Hilton, he has shown that he is willing to give up his life for democracy. And if you remember the old freedom fighters of India, the original breed, they were doing selfless service to the country, for the freedom of India."

Another Republican voter, Gopal Krishna adds, "I'm personally supporting Mike Huckabee, not because he's a frontrunner, but because he portrays the same family values that we all believe in. And when people ask me why I support him when he does not have foreign policy credentials, I tell them that's a positive from my point of view because he does not have a pre-conceived opinion or bias towards anybody. So people who are closer to him like us, we can shape his view when he becomes president so that he has the correct view of the world rather than a biased opinion."

For its part, the Republican Party says it's sympathetic to issues concerning Indian Americans, like immigration of skilled workers, even as its candidates call for strong measures against illegal immigrants.

Chairman, Republican Party of Iowa, Ray Hoffman says, "The ones that I've talked to, and talked about the immigration issue, their recommendation is just let more people come to this country legally. But we definitely have to seal our southern border, we have to. Not just because of people coming across, but there's a definite danger that we could have terrorists come across our borders and things like that. So we have to make it safe."

Regardless of who becomes the eventual Republican nominee, Indian supporters of the party in Iowa are confident that a Republican president would be the best bet for the Indian American community as well as for relations with India.

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