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Bobby Jindal likely to announce White House run on Wednesday

world Updated: Jun 24, 2015 16:03 IST
Yashwant Raj
US polls


Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, Louisiana’s Republican governor is all set to announce a run for the White House on Wednesday, becoming the first Indian American to seek that office.

“Geaux (a play on French for Go) Bobby,” said a picture tweeted on Monday by Jindal inviting people to buy the last few remaining tickets to an announcement in New Orleans.

Jindal, 44, set up an exploratory committee last month to, as the name suggests, explore his chances, an occasional, but mandatory, first-step towards a full-fledged run.

He seems convinced he has a chance or can make a fight of it.

But his candidacy will have mixed traction with the Indian Americans, who are wooed actively by all parties and politicians for their support and, more importantly, their money.

Jindal has insisted in recent comments he is tired of hyphenated Americans — Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and most personally pertinent, Indian-Americans.

His parent, who are from Punjab, didn’t come to the United States to raise Indian-Americans, he said famously in April, but to raise Americans. And that’s what he is.

Many in the community rolled their eyes — “where was that belief when he first ran for office and actively courted the community for support and money”.

“There are some sections that will support him but his views do not reflect what we believe are the majority views particularly of the next-gen,” said Shekar Narasimhan, a Democrat.

“Not sure he wants or needs us anyway!”

Jindal ran and won two terms in US House of Representatives, becoming only the second Indian-American elected to that chamber before becoming governor of Louisiana.

Jindal, who began calling himself only Bobby while still a child — after a character in popular TV series Brady Bunch, and converted to Christianity in college.

He and his wife, Supriya Jindal, said in a TV interview in 2009 that they don’t follow many Indian traditions and rituals. Relatives in India have had visits from them in a long time.

“There’s not much Indian left in Bobby Jindal,” Pearson Cross, a political science professor in Louisiana who is writing a book on the governor, told The Washington Post.

But his troubles go beyond the lack or presence of community support. He has trailed badly in all opinion polls of Republican candidates — figuring in the bottom four or five.

Jindal came in at the 11th place in a field of 13 candidates in the most recent poll, done by The Wall Street Journal and NBC, and he has remained around there in other polls too.

The polling admittedly is from before he is officially in. An announcement is known to give a bounce, but he will need a little more if he expects to give himself a fair shot.

Because of the size of the Republican field, the number of those invited to the crucial primary debates is being kept to the top 10, according to polling numbers.

Jindal, at his present polling, doesn't make the cut.

But, post Wednesday, nothing can take away from him his place in history as the first Indian-American to run for the White House, whether he likes to be called one, or not.

Dalip Singh Saund, a Democrat, was the first Indian-American elected to US congress — as a member of the House of Representatives from California, elected first in 1957.

Jindal was the second, winning first in 2004. He was re-elected in 2006, and then he ran for governor in 2007. This was his second run for that office, he won, and was re-elected in 2011.

Ami Bera, a California Democrat who is currently the only Indian-American in Congress, as a two-term member of the House of Representative, is the third.

The community appears headed for another first. Kamala Harris, California’s attorney general, is running for senate, and may became the first Indian-American elected to that chamber.

For now, however, it’s Jindal, the reluctant Desi.