Survey shows Indian Americans split over direction India headed

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President Trump and Prime Minister Modi hold their arms aloft before an audience of an estimated 50,000 people according to organizers, at the NRG Stadium HowdyModi! event in Houston, TX, Sept. 22, 2019. (Photo: MEA Facebook)

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian Americans, who turned out in huge numbers at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rock star-like rallies in the United States, are divided over the direction India is headed, a new survey showed on Tuesday.

Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has extolled the achievements of the Indian diaspora in America and elsewhere, seeing them as a large support base to advance India’s interests in host countries.

But only 36% Indian Americans believe India is on the right track, while 39% think it is not, according to the survey of Indian Americans released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Johns Hopkins-SAIS and the University of Pennsylvania.

One-fifth of the respondents did not have any opinion. The survey was conducted between Sept. 1 and Sept. 20, 2020, in partnership with the research and analytics firm YouGov.

“A significant minority of Indian Americans is concerned with political and social changes under way in India,” the authors Sumitra Badrinathan, Devesh Kumar and Milan Vaishnav said in their assessment of the survey results.

Modi’s government, which first came to office in 2014 promising to turn India into a political and economic power, has faced criticism of promoting a Hindu-first India and of trying to suppress dissent.

A massive months-long protest by farmers on the borders of the capital Delhi against free market reforms in agriculture has again thrust the Modi government into the international glare, with figures from pop star Rihanna to climate activist Greta Thunberg declaring their support for the growers.

The survey found that 18% of Indian Americans believed government corruption to be India’s most pressing challenge, followed by 15% who listed the economy as their area of concern. Another 10% of respondents cited religious majoritarianism as the country’s most important challenge.

Indian Americans are the second largest immigrant group in the United States, and many of them joined a boisterous “Howdy Modi” rally in Houston in 2019 also attended by then-U.S. president Donald Trump.

Despite their misgivings about where India was headed, 49% of the respondents gave a thumbs-up to Modi’s performance as prime minister. The survey said that 32% disapproved of him, while the rest said they had no opinion.

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