As America votes, the world is waiting and watching but an overwhelming majority of Indians are rooting for Democrat candidate Barack Obama to be the first black American in the White House. Not just because Obama’s worldview revolves around a pluralistic multi-polar world that is more suited to India but more importantly because he has risen from humble origins and has dared to dream.
An Indian sand artists has created the two candidates' heads on the beach in Puri, Orissa
US President George W. Bush may have gifted the path-breaking nuclear deal to India, but Republican aspirant John McCain is no favourite here. Most Indians support Democrat hopeful Barack Obama and see him as a harbinger of change.
The US elections with the charismatic figure of Obama at its centre have fired the imagination of people in India where every other middle class family has a relative living or studying in America. The US is home to a 2.7 million-strong Indian diaspora and 80,000 Indian students.
In many of his pronouncements to the poll run-up, the Democrats' presidential candidate has already said he wanted a stronger relationship with India. Obama has called India a natural strategic partner for America in the 21st century.
Manish Chand, a diplomatic analyst, feels Obama would herald hope and change not only in foreign policy but also how Indians will view the US:
"In India there is an air of hope about the new American president who epitomizes change like nobody else in the recent past has done. Barack Obama’s presidency comes at a time when America’s standing is at an all time low and sends a message of hope to India as well. And it will help India where there are large pockets of anti- American feeling still despite the nuclear deal - to deal with an America which is a multilateralist player rather than a unilateral hegemony as it was in the time of George Bush."
Indians also find that Obama has a more nuanced and sophisticated worldview. His background is an asset: born to a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, lived in Jakarta as a child before moving back to the US - all this makes Obama more aware of what's happening in the outside world.
A symbol of empowerment
Seema Misra, a lawyer says many disadvantaged groups from India and across the world would feel empowered by his election.
"I don’t think he is going to change policy very much", she says. "But just having a Black as the President of the world's largest and powerful democracy is going to be exciting. You can also see in the lead up to the election how the Blacks in America are feeling hopeful and part of the system. And that’s extremely important and that’s why in India we need similar leaders from different sections especially from adivasis and dalits so that they believe the system works for them also."
Manish Chand, too, thinks a black US president would have a special meaning for Indians:
"To large masses of India’s oppressed and disadvantaged sections who have not really had a stake in India’s growth story it is a powerful message. For them they too can break the ceiling and make it. And that’s where the Barack Obama 'audacity of hope', as he calls it, that’s a message in India."
Obama has also been a big hit at university campuses in India where students are struck by his charisma and find he has the appeal of a Hollywood star that they easily identify with.