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NRI in poll campaign crossfire

An Indian American has been caught in the crossfire of campaign for the polls to the US Congress.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2006 11:55 IST

An Indian American has been caught in the crossfire of campaign for the November elections to the US Congress.

Democrat James Webb's Senate campaign accused rival Republican Senator George Allen of making demeaning comments on Friday to a 20-year-old Webb volunteer of Indian descent, the Washington Post reported.

SR Sidarth, a senior at the University of Virginia, had been trailing Allen with a video camera to document his travels and speeches for the Webb campaign.

During a campaign speech Friday in Breaks, Virginia, near the Kentucky border, Allen singled out Sidarth and called him a word that sounded like "Macaca."

"This fellow over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name, is with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere.

And it's just great. We're going to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film and its great to show it to your opponent because he's never been there and probably will never come."

After telling the crowd that Webb was raising money in California with a "bunch of Hollywood movie moguls," Allen again referenced Sidarth, who was born and raised in Fairfax County.

"Lets give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," said Allen, who then began talking about the "war on terror".

The Post quoted Sidarth as saying he suspects Allen singled him out because he was the only non-white face in the audience, which he estimated included about 100 Republican supporters.

"I think he was doing it because he could and I was the person of colour there and it was useful for him in inciting his audience," said Sidarth. "I was annoyed he would use my race in a political context."

According to the Post, Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams said Allen's comment welcoming Sidarth "to America" was not an insult. Allen campaign staffers had begun calling Sidarth "mohawk" because of his haircut. "Macaca was just a variation of that," he said.

Kristian Denny Todd, a Webb spokeswoman, accused Wadhams of "reaching" for an explanation for Allen's comments. "The kid has a name. This is trying to demean him, to minimise him as a person," Todd said.

First Published: Aug 15, 2006 11:15 IST