The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris campaign realized that it needed a “targeted approach” to counter “misinformation” about the Biden-Harris ticket’s relationship with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s government, a key member of the Democratic outreach to the South Asian community told indica News.
Neha Dewan, founder of South Asians for Biden, told this correspondent that “there was a lot of fear mongering” about US-India relations under Biden and that Pakistan would get a pass with Harris’s comments on the Modi government’s actions in Kashmir.
Dewan, a litigation attorney by profession and a community leader at heart, told indica News over phone that she her only interest in politics is to bring more and more South Asians to connect to American politics and the electoral process of the United States.
“Our community is so good at writing checks without asking for anything,” Dewan said. “There is so much power in our community, and we see our community is making a big difference in this country… I think we showed up. The victory is very, very sweet.”
Dewan’s involvement in US politics started over a decade ago when she campaigned for John Kerry in 2004. In 2012, she chaired the New York Chapter of South Asians for Obama. In 2016, she served as national co-chair, South Asians for Hillary.
This time she was fully aware of what was missing and how to bring in all south Asians to one platform and feel connected to US politics, she said.
“I think we have learned how to manage and how to triage, how to do things,” said Dewan.
“We cannot leave any stone unturned, so in August we gave birth to a series of the national council, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Nepalese so that the outreach could be very surgical.”
“We never did this; we never broke down by the national council. This was the first time we decided to,” said Dewan, pointing to the targeted election campaigning.
“We have built a very broad and diverse inter-generational coalition. We realized we also needed a much-needed targeted approach in terms of misinformation about Biden and Modi,” Dewan said.
“First, there is no evidence Biden is anti-Hindu,” she said.
Hence, she said, “we developed graphics, memes, etc to correct that information,”
There was also wrong information, she said, that Donald Trump is good for the economy, and India.
“We explained if you look at what Trump has done for US-India relations, it’s harmful,” Dewan said.
“Just two weeks before the election he calls India filthy. Whether it’s true or not, but you don’t go to your friends’ house and leave and say it is filthy,” she said.
“In the end people realized, the community realized. And we worked very hard on this.”
She sounded genuinely excited on “finally seeing an Indian American, Kamala Harris, elected to the second most important post on earth.”
Asked if they changed strategy in August after the name of Kamala Harris was as the vice presidential candidate was announced in August, she said she started a few weeks before.
“I wanted to have a targeted way to reach to every single community because every single vote mattered,” Dewan said. “I didn’t want just to paint a very broad brush. I wanted this to be very targeted.”
“We let the Pakistani community work and coordinate with certain states. The Gujarati event was done in Texas, and it was co-sponsored by Indians for Biden. It was a very methodical and surgical approach to this election,” she said.
What was the need for religious outreach such as Hindu Americans for Biden and Sikhs for Biden?
“What was happening, was volunteers were bringing up the information that they were hearing. Leaders would come to the team and if there was any information we would clarify that information and would then go back to the community,” said Dewan.
Asked about the biggest questions directed at the campaign, she said: “There was wrong information circulating that Biden was anti-Hindu and he was only for Muslims. And Pakistanis thought Biden was only for Indians.”
Dewan said they had 20 chapters, 80 national board members, five national councils and two faith-based groups. They hosted 50 events since May 2020, five recurring phone banks into battleground states every weekend, 100,000 phone calls and about 50,000 text messages and over 10,000 postcards that were written by seniors and youths.