5 Reasons Why India Will Be Closely Watching US Midterm Elections

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More than 36 million people in the US have already cast their vote.

New York:

Election day is upon us, promising what is not just expected to be a historic US midterm election because of the expected voter turnout, pulling in even the "Presidential election voters" but also because few other elections of the sort have been this hotly contested, divisive, controversial, potentially making possible the impeachment of the man in the White House. (Dismissal of a president requires 67 of 100 Senate votes, making it highly improbably). Already, early voting has been far more than in recent times. More than 36 million people in the US have already cast their vote. That's already 14 million more than the early voters in the entire 2014 election.

The 2018 US midterm election will be watched closely by the world. Donald Trump's narrative will be judged. The overall vote shall serve as a referendum on Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the journey of immigrants chasing the American dream, whether in the "caravan" or not, hate speech, and multilateralism the United Nations has been advocating. No issue trumps Donald Trump himself. He has become the issue for many Americans. Is he right for America or not is the quintessential divisive question in all 50 states going to elections.

435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate and 36 out of the 50 Governors are up for election. The likely scenario where the House of Representatives goes to the Democrats while the Senate stays with the Republicans itself will prove to be a legitimate check on Donald Trump.

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Whichever way the result goes, it will serve as a bellwether for many issues that India is deeply concerned about.

Here are the five reasons India and Indian-Americans will be closely watching the possible:

H-1B, H-4 Visas and Birthright Citizenship: The introduction of tighter immigration policy will significantly depend on who holds power in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Donald Trump's administration has been making it tougher for US companies to employ foreign workers. Most recently a set of stringent provisions to the H-1B Visa was introduced. Trump's team has also told a federal court that it expected to revoke work permits to H-4 visa users. H-4 visas are given to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa. This is likely to have a major impact on Indian women. Donald Trump has also revealed his stand on birthright citizenship. Trump wants to pass an executive order to such effect even if legal eagles and the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan disagree and say Trump simply cannot do that. The issue though leaves Indian citizens working in the US wondering what happens to the children they have planned, are having or have already had.

Indian-American Politicians: As many as eight Indian Americans are fighting for a place in the US House of Representatives. They are Anita Malik, Hiral Tipirneni, Sri Kulkarni, Aftab Pureval, Sanjay Patel, Chintan Desai, Harry Arora and Jitendra Diganvker. Two of these are Republicans and six are Democrats. Of these eight challengers, four are said to have a fighting chance to be elected. In addition there are four Indians up for re-election; Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, and Raja Krishnamoorthi. All four of these incumbents are expected to win. In fact, Jitendra Diganvker is running against Raja Krisnamoorthi in an Indian-American vs Indian-American fight. In the Senate, Shiva Ayyadurai is running in Massachusetts but is likely to lose as an independent in a race that also has favorite Elizabeth Warren running. Indian-American Senator Kamala Harris is not up for re-election. In total in terms of Federal, State and Local office, approximately 50 Indian-Americans will be on the ballot come Tuesday.

The Pink Wave vs Trump: There's no doubt India's very own #MeToo owes a lot to Dr Christine Blasey Ford. Did Trump's rhetoric become a red herring for the #MeToo movement? Judge Kavanaugh may have become Justice Kavanaugh but the impact of Trump dissing Dr Ford will be seen in the elections. Early voting reveals women are the section of the society that has turned up to vote the most along with older people. If women vote against Trump it will only fire the movement that hit India, giving confidence to more women to speak up.

Trade and Tariffs: India finds itself sandwiched between the US and Iran on oil. The US has introduced perhaps the toughest sanctions on Iran hitting oil exports, shipping and banks. This has already triggered mass protests in Tehran. The situation is likely to impact oil prices in India even if India is one of the eight countries to be exempt from the sanctions. So, for now, India can continue importing oil from Iran. But then again all of that could change one fine day with a tweet. The war of tariffs could escalate between the US and China. The game of tit-for-tat though has hurt China more. Trump imposed tariffs on 250 billion dollars worth of Chinese goods. China returned the favor with 110 billion dollars worth of tariffs on US goods. Could this change the trade landscape between India and the US and if yes to what extent?

Geopolitical Consequences: A stronger Trump or a weaker Trump is directly proportional to Trump's protectionism style of politics. Trump has ushered in a new era of political realignment with the withdrawal of millions of dollars from Pakistan, withdrawing from the Human Rights Council in the United Nations, cozying up to North Korea through the leader he says he loves and the continued distancing from Europe. All of this could change depending on which way the election goes.

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