Suresh Kumar gave President Barack Obama one of his few successes and won a special mention in the last state of the union address. “It was the right time to move on,” Kumar told Hindustan Times on Mon­day, shortly after announcing he was putting down office as Obama’s export czar.
Exports moved up from 11% of GDP to 14% — 144, 000 jobs in 2009 to over 303,000 jobs in 2011 — on Kumar’s watch, with Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2014 in sight.
Kumar is the second Indian-origin senior official to leave the Obama administration in last seven days. Chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra annou­nced his departure on January 27.
Indian-origin Americans have been historically Demo­crats, and that has been the narrative despite the successes in the rightwing political sphere of Governors Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley.
Kumar is not abandoning the administration, which has struggled with plummeting popularity numbers, but he said he is sim­ply moving on after his two years.
“This was public service,” he said in an interview. When Obama asked him to join his administration two years ago, Kumar and his family felt both honoured and conflicted.
“My wife asked me, ”Kumar said, recalling the family debate then, “do you mean we will not have access to a company jet now and we will fly the cheapest fare available?”
In the end, it turned out quite well for Kumar. He is leaving behind a fairly successful set up, fulfilling the mandate given to him by the president.
His son, Adity Kumar, is also leaving his position in the White House as a senior advisor to vice-president Joe Biden’s chief of staff. He left last Friday. The father and son met the Presi­dent to convey to him their decision and, Kumar senior said, Obama was very gracious, but asked Kumar to stay on for five more weeks.