rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

Last updated on: November 3, 2010 15:06 IST

Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

     Next

Next
George Joseph

Creating history on many fronts Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley, 38, was elected as governor of South Carolina, one of the smaller and most conservative states in the United States.

Riding on a wave against the liberal policies of President Barrack Obama, and inspired and helped by the right wing Tea Party movement, led by leaders like Sarah Palin, former candidate for vice president, Haley, whose parents came from Amritsar in the 60s, trounced her Democratic opponent state Senator Vincent Sheheen.

She secured a total of 525,962 votes while her opponent managed 472,889 votes

It was a night of celebration for the Indian community in the US, which has a history of less than half a century as well as a number of less than one percent of the US population.

Yet, with the election of Haley, two of the members from the community became governors, two years ago Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and now Haley, both Republicans.

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
     Next

Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Though a smear campaign to tarnish her image on many fronts continued for long, people came forward to vote for Haley, who travelled through the state propagating her ideas.

The fresh look and voice as also the new ideas of somebody who was not a political insider in Columbia, the capital of the state, appealed the people.

She stood for the conservative values of less government, more liberty, family values, education and job creation, to a state where poverty still exists and opportunities are rare.

It was also a night for the South Carolina women, as a woman won as governor for the first time. The state has rarely elected a woman to state-wide offices and never elected a woman as governor.



Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
Prev     Next

Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Haley's victory was never in doubt once she became victorious in the run-off with Congressman Gresham Barrett winning 65 percent of the votes in July. She was consistently ahead in the polls though the margin kept on going down as personal attacks created doubts in the minds of the people.

"Politics brings out the desperation in opponents and it gets worse closer to the election day. However, Nikki continued to focus on the issues that impact the lives of South Carolinians," her father Prof Ajit Randhawa noted.

The last 18 months took a toll on Haley as she crossed the state with her husband Michael Haley, who stood like a rock behind her all times, and children Rena, 10 and Nalin, 8.

Attacks and negative publicity created heartburns at times.


Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
Prev     Next

Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

"But we never regretted her decision to contest the election or run away from the battle field," her mother, Raj, who runs an upscale clothing store Exotica in Columbia said.

The store caters to the mainstream community and Raj is one of the top experts of fashion world with 34 years of real world experience.

Haley said earlier she is withstanding the pressure and stress of the campaign because of her faith and her family.

"I have strong faith and an amazing husband and a loving family around me."

Haley never hid her Indian origin and always brought her family wherever possible. She would acknowledge them first and salute their contributions.



Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
Prev     Next

Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Prof Randhawa wears a turban and beard as a practicing Sikh and stood out in the crowd of mostly white Americans.

"Race was not an issue in the election. But when Nikki contested for the state assembly for the first time six years ago, there was some incident," he said.

Though she looked very American, yet she had gold bangles and a silver kada on her hand, which showed her Indian identity too.

Her daughter and husband too wear the Sikh symbol though they worship at the Mount Horeb Methodist Church in Lexington. The polling station where she voted too was in the church premises.



Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
Prev     Next

Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Haley is an accountant. She started keeping the books at her parent's clothing store, Exotica International, when she was 13 and went through her first audit by the time she was 16.

People who came to the Columbia Convention Centre, not far from the State House, on whose steps Palin endorsed Haley to bring her to the top among the primary contestants, people chanted hysterically 'Haley, Haley' and drums and loud music proclaimed the changing guard as the announcement of her victory came.

It was spectacular for a state, which seceded from the union, when President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, now choosing an Indian American and woman as governor.

Current Governor and Haley's early mentor Mark Sanford, Attorney General Henry McMaster, who lost the primary to her and later endorsed her, too came for the victory party.



Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
Prev     Next

Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Governor Sanford, who is termed out told rediff.com earlier that Haley is a strong woman and will be an excellent governor. "She believes in the conservative principles and knows the aspirations of the people," he said.

Dino Teppara, a young Republican leader from the state noted, "having worked on Governor Bobby Jindal's campaigns in 2003 and 2007, this evening will be especially meaningful to see Nikki Haley, a longtime family friend, become the governor of my home state. She has shown what toughness looks like and is an inspiration to all Americans. She will be a strong advocate for continued economic development in the state and I am hopeful we can see major investments from India in South Carolina in the years ahead."

Trey Dickson, who was a neighbour during Haley's younger days in Hamburg, was emotional about the victory.



Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
Prev     Next

Indian American Nikki Haley is South Carolina Guv

Prev     More
Prev

More

Trey said he could not express his happiness in words. He is a few years younger than Haley. "However growing up in Bamberg, everyone knew everyone. She was one of his sister's best friends.

"I have always admired Nikki and her family. They are truly what living the American dream is all about -- a very hard working, caring, loving family," he said.

He said what makes her different is her relentless courage, vision, ability, and a profound faith in humanity.

"I really like her down-to-earth approach to problem solving. She's a leader, the very leader our state needs for the next four years," he noted.



Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
Prev     More