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Ash Khare, the Indian-American who stood firm against Donald Trump critics

world Updated: Dec 22, 2016 01:52 IST
Yashwant Raj
ash khare

A protester demonstrating outside the Pennsylvania Capitol Building before electors arrived to formalise the election of Donald Trump as the next US president on Monday. (AFP)

Ash Khare has 45 patents, published many papers, and found acclaim among peers, but nothing close to his recent celebrity as the elector who became the face of defiance to calls for deserting Donald Trump in the electoral college vote.

Reaching home in rural Pennsylvania late Monday, the day of the vote, the 68-year-old immigrant from Kanpur steeled himself for a daily routine that he had come to dread in recent days — check his letterbox and email.

“I have just reached home and haven’t opened my computer,” Khare said over phone from Warren, Pennsylvania, where he lives and works for decades. “But I can tell you when I open the email, there will be at least 6,000 emails.”

Khare said he had received 17,000 calls including some at really odd hours , so much so that the local post office had assigned him his own delivery man. People were writing to him from all over the country, Khare said, and the world — Germany, UK, France, Australia and, he remembered clearly, Costa Rica — urging the Republican Elector to not vote for Trump. “One seven-year-old girl called to say she was scared of Trump,” he said, his voice rising in anger, “How the hell can a seven year old girl be scared of Donald Trump, you tell me.”

Another woman called to say her father survived the Holocaust and now she was scared of Donald Trump. “‘Lady, I told her, what do you want me to do about it’”.

“This is harassment,” he said, blaming the Clinton campaign for using their vast resources to peddle the “dumbest, stupid ideas” to explain to their donors why she lost despite the phenomenal amount of money she spent.

Khare, a Republican for decades, didn’t budge. He was one of the 538 electors of the electoral college — and the only Indian American among them, he said — who voted to formalise Trump’s election as the 45th president of the US with a huge margin of 304 to 227 votes. Trump’s detractors, including some Republicans, had tried to use the vote to try and stop him one more time, urging Republican electors to abandon the president-elect and vote to defeat him.

They failed, once again. A record number of electors did indeed dump the nominees, but most of them, five, were from the Democratic party who voted against Clinton. Only two Republicans flipped, clearly not enough to cause Trump any damage.

Khare had emerged as a fierce critic of those calling for Trump’s defeat and his story, of an immigrant from India batting so aggressively for the president-elect, ran across media platforms, TV, web and print.

CNN ran an article about him titled, “From immigrant to elector: ‘I am living the American dream’”.

Khare came to the US in 1969 with just $ 8 in his pocket and has gone from being a ”nobody” to an elector. Born and raised in Kanpur, Khare went to IIT Kanpur to study metallurgy and came to the US to study and never went back, except to visit.

He has always been a Republican , in sharp contrast to most other Indian Americans who are Democratic or at least start as one. And he built himself a reputation in the party, he said, as someone who raises money and delivers votes. And supporting Trump? That was easy. “His message is the right message for America,” Khare said. On illegal immigration, caring for veterans, police and race relations, Obamacare, Khare said Trump has picked up all the right issues.

But there are “goofy and dumb things” Trump has said and done. He “can’t defend them”, Khare said, flatly.