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July 18, 2019
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TimesofIndia Technology

How Steve Bannon fell in love with Indian Americans

WASHINGTON: Why would a self-confessed economic nationalist patronise an ethnic immigrant group that he has in the past vilified and accused of usurping top technology jobs in Silicon Valley? Because he now recognises that they do it legally, that they are Americans first, and they form the backbone of the US tech economy.
This is the story of how Steve Bannon, who served as the chief strategist of the Trump White House before being knifed out over economic policies in the nationalists versus globalists battle, became honorary chairman of the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), a Trump-supporting political outfit founded by Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, a Chicago entrepreneur with an unabashedly Hindu orientation. Founder of the AVG Group of Companies, which once designed and manufactured electronic components, including printed circuit boards (PCB), the Ambala-born Kumar was a victim of a systematic Chinese takeover of the PCB industry.
As it turned out, Kumar was not the only one. Many Indian-Americans owned PCB units. By Kumar’s account, they dominated a $70 billion industry before the Chinese invasion in the first decade of 2000. “It was a massacre,” he recalls. Rallying the routed Indian-American entrepreneurs (Kumar prefers to call them Hindu-Americans, a term Bannon also embraces comfortably), Kumar reached out to the Trump campaign impressed by the pledge to bring back manufacturing to the United States. “During the Trump campaign, immigration was a big issue. We wanted to demonstrate that we are for legal, merit-based immigration. Shalli Kumar had difficulty connecting with the Trump campaign and came to me. The GOP also had a difficult time reaching out to Hindu Americans. He made a presentation about the printed circuit board industry that had been decimated by the Chinese,” Bannon recalled in an interview to TOI.
As it turned out, the mutual outreach occurred around the so-called Billy Bush weekend (when tapes of Trump boasting about his sexual conquests in a radio interview to Billy Bush surfaced). Traditional Republicans began abandoning the Trump campaign in droves. But Kumar did the opposite; he turned up with a $1 million contribution to the Trump campaign after raising money from his printed circuit board industry pals who had been pulversised by the Chinese.
On June 22, Bannon was the headliner at a RHC-hosted Chicago event that incongruously melded two issues: discussing how to revive manufacturing in the US and celebrating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory in India (both Kumar and Bannon are Modi fans).

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