‘Indian American vote for Republican caucus in Iowa will go to Vivek Ramaswamy’ says Indo-American PAC-IA chief

Ritu Jha–

Prakash Kopparapu, chairman of the Indo-American PAC-IA, says no Indian-origin candidate can win without connecting with the community. In an interview with indica Kopparapu asserted, “You cannot win without our support.”

In an unprecedented year for Indian Americans, there were three from the community in the fray last year, a list that has since narrowed to two – former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and pharma millionaire Vivek Ramaswamy.

Kopparapu, who is all set for the Republican primary caucus in Iowa on Monday, is not pleased with Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who he says has not responded to the PAC’s invitation so far. “We sent invites out to all candidates, Democrats, and Republicans. Vivek (Ramaswamy) responded well. With Nikki Haley, many of our members went to her events and invited her over the past six to eight months. Since she announced, she came to Iowa about 15-16 times. She can come anytime.”

Kopparapu says the Indian American community in Iowa is united. “We act like one,” he said, “and I am proud to be a chair. We rally around each other closely. We all go to each other’s place all the time.”

Prakasha Kopparapu and then Senator Kamala Harris at the Indo-American PAC-IA event in 2018

Indo-American PAC-IA is no stranger to hosting presidential and vice-presidential candidates. In 2018, Kopparapu and his team had hosted Vice President Kamala Harris, then a senator, during her first visit to Iowa in October.

“Senator Harris had done a phenomenal job of reaching out to our community here. We endorsed her in August 2019, but later she dropped out of the race. We also gave our input when President Biden was looking for VP candidates. Our endorsement helped. She’s been close to our community here.”

Explaining the work of the Indo-American PAC-IA Kopparapu said candidates come to meet the community in Iowa to explain their positions on major issues, be it the economy or healthcare. At the same time, we also explain our expectations and our aspirations. There is an open discussion on policy. They don’t want our money, they want our vote.”

The PAC chairman explained that the Indian American vote is worth a million dollars to the candidates. “We have 78% Democrats now. It used to be 68% Republicans. In 2016, 68% of Indian Americans voted for Trump in Iowa. So we changed that to 78%. But they’re all willing to vote caucus for Vivek Ganapathy Ramaswamy or Nikki Haley. They were ready to switch parties and vote. So many of them are still doing this because Vivek has reached out much.”

There are over 22,000 Indian American votes in Iowa, and Kopparapu feels they will all go to Vivek in the Republican primary. “That’s close to 12,000 votes if half of them turn up.” He expects that number to turn up from the Indian American community.

“We are primarily concerned with healthcare, the economy, and social issues. Those are the things we advocate as also opportunities for our young generation. US-India relations definitely come up here and there, but that’s not our top priority. Our top priority is healthcare.”

Prakash Kopparapu and then Vice President Joe Biden in 2019

Kopparapu is himself a Democrat. “I’m a Biden supporter. I was a peace captain for Biden the last time, and then I’ll be doing that again this year, tomorrow. But from a community standpoint the Democrat side, we don’t have much of a competition.”

He admits he cannot figure what Nikki Haley is doing. “I’ve not spoken with her directly,” Kopparapu told indica, but I know her advisory team. They too are disappointed.”

Kopparapu feels that because of Ramaswamy’s outreach, the Indian American vote will most likely go to him. “That’s what I’m seeing on the field. If she’s coming, I’ll definitely meet her.”

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