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Indian American in White House!

While hailing Bobby Jindal's recent success, Indian Americans discuss possibility of an NRI in the White House.

india Updated: Oct 28, 2007 20:28 IST

While celebrating the election of Bobby Jindal as the governor of Louisiana, many Indian Americans are beginning to ask, "Why not an Indian American in the White House?"

Ashok 'Rocky' Madan writes from California, "The White House is not far now!"

Yes, considering that the two Democrat candidates - Barrack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton - for the next presidential election are breaking the WASP mould of White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant and also the gender barrier, a 2012 presidential hopeful could well be a Indian American, as NRIs are known in the US.

Bobby Jindal trounced his nearest rival to become the first Indian American governor of any US state in history. Jindal won the contest by more than 54 percent of the votes cast, thus avoiding any run off election. Four years ago, he ran for the office of governor and lost by a meagre two percent of votes. He then contested for the US Congress in 2004 and became the second person of Indian origin to sit in the House of Representatives after Dalip Singh Saund. In 1956, Saund, born in India, was elected to the House from California. Both Saund and Jindal have roots in Punjab, India.

In 1996, two years after graduating from Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar, Jindal was appointed secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals at the tender age of 26. He was appointed executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, a 17-member panel. Jindal returned to the Louisiana state government in 1999, when he accepted an appointment to become president of the University of Louisiana System. After serving in that capacity for two years, Jindal was appointed assistant secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Thirty-six-year-old Jindal is the youngest governor in the US; so he has plenty of lead time to aim for the White House when his term for governor runs out. As a Republican, he stands a better chance at the age of 40 because by all counts the next president could well be a Democrat - what after the whiplash of the Iraq War. It could be Hillary as the first woman president - just like India - or it could be Obama as the first non-white president. Or, both could get elected with one of them as the vice president.

But this is a time to celebrate as orthopaedic surgeon Ram Mudiyam said, "Fantastic! All Indians, whether Republican or Democrat, should put their partisan politics aside and celebrate this stupendous and historic achievement!"

Vikram Bajwa, who has also dabbled in state politics, said, "Bobby has accomplished the dream of Martin Luther King, who dreamt to have the minorities, given a chance to be equal with the majority. This will also trigger the Indo-Americans, especially the younger generation, to get out of the gurdwaras, mandirs and come into the mainstream."

The National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA), the umbrella organisation of more than 200 different groups representing more than 2.5 million Americans of Indian origin, heartily congratulated Jindal. NFIA and Jindal have had close and cordial relations for many years. The organisation has supported the candidacy of Jindal. Reflecting the views of all NFIA officers, a spokesman said, "It is a great moment in the history of America when someone who looks like us becomes the governor of Louisiana. We should all be dancing in the streets to display our pride."

Vivek Singhal, a management don from Chicago, sent me an e-mail, "The Indian Americans are influencing the US political environment", along with a news clipping of Jindal's election. When told that the Indian media had front-paged this news in detail, Vivek responded, "I am glad to hear that the Indian media is reporting this with joy."

After settling in the US for over half a century and contributing in such large measure to its professions, academia and the economy, Indian Americans have not been elected in large numbers to the state or the union legislatures as in Britain. So the basic reaction of NRIs about Jindal's election seems to be "It's about time!" And the White House is not such an unreachable dream either.

(A media consultant to a UN Agency, Kul Bhushan previously worked abroad as a newspaper editor and has travelled to over 55 countries. He lives in New Delhi and can be contacted at: kulbhushan2040@gmail.com)