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'Indian American president in 10 yrs'

india Updated: Jan 07, 2008 15:37 IST

It may sound fantastic now, but Jay Goyal, a 27-year-old legislator from Ohio, is confident that an Indian American will be in the race for the US presidency in another 10 years or so.

"Within 10-12 years, you can expect an Indian American to be in the US presidential race. I won't be surprised when it happens," Goyal, who is in India to catch up with his friends and extended family, told IANS in an interview here.

"It's a matter of time. It's going to happen," the dapper Goyal, who has been hailed as a new emerging face of the Democratic Party, said when asked whether Indian Americans are ambitious enough to covet the top job in the US.

"With the second generation of Indian Americans, there will be a significant increase in the number of young members of the community proactively participating in US politics," he said while referring to the spectacular success of Bobby Jindal, who won the election on a Republican platform to become the governor of Louisiana last year.

This interest in politics stands out in dramatic contrast to the 1970s and 1980s when Indian Americans were not sure whether politics was the right choice for them.

"It's changing now. Indian Americans have always chosen safe professions in which they can succeed financially. Politics was looked at in a different light. Now of course all that is changing," Goyal said.

Goyal, a second generation Indian American who became the youngest legislator when he was elected from 73rd District to the Ohio House of Representatives three years ago, is not shy about citing his success in a white-majority district as a taste of things to come.

"I am the youngest person in the Ohio assembly. In this district of 110,000 people, only 100-150 people are Indian Americans. Yet I won 63 percent of the vote," said Goyal who, as local folklore has it, knocked on 13,000 doors to get elected.

"It speaks volumes about how much the Indian community has been integrated into the American mainstream. We have to leverage our financial muscle into political power," he asserts confidently.

It's not that this race to the top is going to be smooth sailing all the way. There may be some landmines and prejudices on the way. "Racism exists. Racism exists everywhere. My family too has faced discrimination and snide comments like you don't belong here. This attitude became slightly more pronounced after 9/11," said Goyal.

"But an overwhelming majority of people looks past that. They look at your values and actions. And the Indian and American values are identical in terms of emphasis on family, education and hard work," Goyal, whose family migrated to the US in the 1970s, said with a faint American accent.

Goyal believes that failure of the India-US civil nuclear deal would be a big disappointment to the Indian American community who have lobbied tirelessly to get the 123 legislation past the Congress last year, but it would not be a decisive setback to burgeoning India-US ties in the long term.

"If the deal passes, the strategic relationship will grow more vigorously. If it doesn't, the relationship will probably not be as close as it would have been. But neither would there be a rollback from the present state of ties," he said.

Batting vigorously for his party, which is known to be hawkish on non-proliferation, Goyal said the deal has a future under the Democratic dispensation.

"If you look at last year's voting pattern in the US Congress, there is a significant Democratic support for the nuclear deal."

Whom is he betting on in the 2008 poll sweepstakes? Goyal plays it cautiously, refusing to name any favourites, but one thing he is sure of - a Democratic victory would be a boost to India-US ties and the Indian American community.

"That's because the Democratic Party is more aligned with the values of Indian Americans," he said.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in )