Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, two Indian American rising stars on the US political firmament, are among the names being bandied about by political commentators as potential running mates for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in November’s presidential elections.
What Jindal and Haley have going for them is the fact that they are both conservative, non-white southerners who would add some diversity to the Republican ticket led by Romney, a white Mormon who is a former governor of the northern state of Massachusetts. Haley has the added advantage of her gender, which would be seen as a big plus since it further diversifies the ticket. In 2008, then Republican presidential nominee John McCain picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin in an attempt to woo female voters.
Locked in a tight race with Barack Obama, the US’s first African American president, the GOP is eager to attract minority voters and picking someone like Jindal or Haley could be the key to do just that. Both Haley and Jindal are children of Indian immigrants. Both were converts to Christianity at an early age. And both are governors of southern states—Jindal in Louisiana and Haley in South Carolina.
Indian Americans are no longer a novelty in US administrations but if either Jindal or Haley were to become vice-president, they would be the first such to hold that office. President Obama has stocked his administration with Indian Americans, including at senior positions. Raj Shah, who serves as director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is the seniormost Indian American in the administration. Two senior Indian American officials at the White House—chief information officer Vivek Kundra and chief technology officer Aneesh Goyal—have in the past year left the administration to pursue other opportunities. Goyal has set his sights on the office of lieutenant governor of the state of Virginia.
Other prominent Indian Americans in office are Farah Pandith, the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities, and Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York who is making waves with his prosecution of financial crime on Wall Street.