As the US Presidential nomination race heats up, speculations are rife over who could be the vice-presidential nominees. One name that has emerged in the race for the Republican candidate and deputy to John McCain is Indian-born governor of Louisiana — Piyush ‘Bobby’ Jindal.
Within weeks of taking office, rising Republican star Jindal’s name was thrown into the ring as a possible vice-presidential candidate by influential conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
And some say that the 36-year-old son of Punjabi immigrants could make a great president if he plays his cards right.
A cowboy boot-wearing social conservative, Jindal built his political support among Christian conservatives and middle-class whites with his promises to cut taxes, tighten government spending and impose a total ban on abortions.
Since taking office on January 14, the new governor is winning respect from blacks, liberals and other traditional Democrats with his ethics reforms and a vigorous approach to economic progress.
“Bobby Jindal is striking a chord with Democrats. They’re saying, ‘I love Bobby Jindal and I am so glad he’s our governor’,” said Democratic media consultant Cheron Brylski who calls Jindal “Louisiana’s last hope”. “There is also an overwhelming pride about having a minority governor,” she said in an interview.
Jindal’s youthful enthusiasm and ability to bridge calcified divides of race and party has led some to see him as the Republican party’s answer to Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
“Jindal is not near the poet that Obama is — yet — but he has a great story to tell,” said political consultant Allan Katz.
Born in Baton Rouge in 1971 to recent immigrants from India’s Punjab, Jindal’s career in this southern state once known for deep racial differences has been meteoric.
His father, an engineer and one of nine children of a poor rural family, came to the United States so that his mother could continue her graduate work in nuclear physics.
Jindal took easily to US culture. As a boy, he adopted his nickname “Bobby” from a character on The Brady Bunch television show. As a teenager, he converted to Roman Catholicism from Hinduism.
A policy wonk and Rhodes scholar who graduated from Oxford University, Jindal was appointed secretary of Louisiana’s health department at age 24.
Katz says he has not seen so much public enthusiasm for a governor in decades. “Bobby Jindal is off to a great start,” he told AFP. “He knows how to build public support, work the media and to bring public pressure to get his stuff passed.”