Prospects of a first Indian American in the White House died a few weeks ago with Bobby Jindal bowing out of the race but another member of the community is quietly seeing her hopes of breaking into the top echelons of US politics rise.
Not for the White House but the corner office whose occupant is just a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. Speculation about 43-year-old Nikki Haley as Republican vice-presidential candidate has started.
Fuelling it is her selection to deliver the opposition party’s customary rejoinder to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
It seems she is going to be doing much more this week, which has added to the speculation that the party was positioning her as a vice-presidential pick that’s still weeks down the road.
The Republican South Carolina governor is scheduled to speak to the party’s national committee leaders at their winter meeting this week in her state, on a ship.
And the day after, Haley is expected to hold a quiet meeting with fellow governor and presidential candidate Chris Christie, who has begun surging in polls after an insipid start.
Politico, a news site that first reported these meetings on Monday, said Haley has forged close ties with two other presidential candidates, former governor Jeb Bush and senator Marco Rubio.
“Indeed, the chatter about Haley’s national prospects has only increased,” Politico said in the report. It could have added her rise tracks inversely with Jindal’s meteoric crash.
Jindal, the first Indian American governor, courted international celebrity status by becoming the first Asian to ever run for the White House. His campaign never really took off, though.
He tried to obscure his beginnings in an attempt widely slammed as a blunder to broaden his appeal, insisting he was tired of hyphenated Americans, such as Indian-Americans.
He was one of them, Jindal seemed to say, arguing he was not seeking votes for that reason. That was a legitimate case to make, politically, but was not enough.
He failed to explain an indifferent-to-poor record as governor of Louisiana, whose finances will take a long time to recover from his doctrinaire conservative experiments.
Haley, whose parents came from Punjab and whose name is Nimrata “Nikki” Randhawa Haley and is only the second Indian American governor of any US state ever, was different.
She turned around the economy of the state, which was a reason the party chose her for the State of the Union rejoinder, and her healing touch after the Charleston massacre.
Haley signed a legislation to remove a Confederate-era flag that had come to symbolize the state’s racist history blamed for the killing of nine blacks by a white supremacist last June.
“We are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer,” Haley said in a nationally televised address, flanked by Republicans and Democrats from the state legislature.
The governor had resisted the removal of the flag earlier but quickly embraced the countrywide call for its removal after the massacre, winning rare praise even from liberals.
Haley was seen as a healer, uniter and, comparisons being a necessary part of politics, decidedly better than the divisive Jindal who once called his own party “stupid”.
And the Indian American community is proud of her despite its overwhelmingly Democratic affiliation. Jindal, on the other hand, is a hash-tagged off-colour Twitter joke.