The Indian-American community passed another milestone with the election on Saturday of Bobby Jindal to the governorship of Louisiana, the highest US political post any community member has won.
Jindal secured over 50 per cent of the vote to defeat 11 other candidates. His victory is all the more surprising in that it took place in Louisiana — a state that is a byword for corruption, racism and backwardness in the US.
Jindal, 36, will also be the youngest governor in the US and the first non-white to rule Louisiana since the end of the US civil war. In 2003, he had unsuccessfully run for the governor's office. Undeterred, he followed it up with two successful terms as a member of the lower house of Congress — only the second Indian-American to serve in Congress and the first since 1963.
A US governor is roughly the equivalent of a chief minister in India.
Jindal's victory has received a mixed response from the Indian-American community. Conservative Hindu groups have been unhappy at the fact Jindal, whose ancestral village is Khanpura in Punjab, is a convert to Catholicism and argued he had done so just to further his political career. However, Jindal was educated in Catholic schools in Louisiana and he converted as a college student.
Liberal suburban Indian-Americans are unhappy at his right-wing political stances.
A Republican, Jindal is a staunch supporter of President George W Bush and his campaign platform included attacks on the theory of evolution and abortion rights.
Most Indian-American bloggers, however, expressed "a certain sense of pride at his accomplishment" even while having reservations about aspects of Jindal himself.
For Jindal, and the Louisianians who voted for him, this was all largely irrelevant. What got out the vote for Jindal was his uncompromising stance against political corruption and his proven accomplishments as a skilled administrator.
Soon after he was declared governor-elect, Jindal promised to call a special session of the state legislature to fight corruption. He warned corrupt politicians "can either go quietly or they can go loudly, but either way, they will go".
As a Bush administration official, Jindal earned national praise for solving thorny healthcare problems. The state's main newspaper, the
New Orleans Times-Picayune
, endorsed him for his "sense of purpose" and "strong ethical compass".
His Democratic opponents unsuccessfully attempted to play on xenophobic fears by highlighting Jindal's first name "Piyush" and his foreign origins. Jindal visited India last year as part of a congressional delegation to promote the Indo-US nuclear deal.