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Home > India > News > Columnists > T P Sreenivasan

Bobby Jindal for Vice-President?

May 12, 2008

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Till a few years ago, the greatest dream of every immigrant Indian mother in the United States was that her son should become a doctor, not of philosophy, but of medicine. After all, PHD stood for "poor and hungry doctor", while MD stood for "moneyed doctor".

A joke in the community was about an Indian mother, who was invited to witness the swearing in of her son as the President of the United States. She was happy, but not too excited. As she sat in the front row of VIPs, she was asked how she felt, now that her son was going to be the President of the United States. Did she expect her son to rise so high? She just could not understand the fuss. "Look," she said, "his brother is already a doctor, a medical doctor."

Bobby Jindal's parents had the same hope. They expected him to be a doctor and the only leeway they gave him was that he could choose any specialty. But Jindal broke the glass ceiling to become a Congressman first and a governor afterwards, at one time the preserves of lily white people in the United States.

No wonder Senator John McCain is considering him as a running mate. Between McCain and Jindal, the average age will be 53 as the former is 71 and the latter 36 (he will be 37 on June 10). If Barrack Obama is the Democratic challenger, McCain will do well to dilute his colour by adding a bit of brown to his ticket. Brown may be more acceptable than black. As for conservatism, Jindal will beat any white, including McCain. It is not for nothing that Rush Limbaugh, the popular conservative radio show host called him the 'next Ronald Reagan.'

Bill Kristol's column in The New York Times characterised Jindal as 'someone young, with real accomplishments and a strong reformist streak.' Jindal has many things to his credit. He is the youngest current Governor in the US, he is the first non-white governor of Louisiana and he is the first Indian-American governor in US history. He has had a brilliant education, including a stint as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He has identified himself totally with the country of his adoption not only by adopting a name from the television show, The Brady Brunch, but also by converting from Hinduism to Roman Catholicism. He is part of the most conservative society in Louisiana.

On the question of abortion, which is a litmus test of conservatism, Jindal has declared himself 'a 100%against abortions, no exceptions.' His name on the Republican ticket will only strengthen its conservative credentials.

Jindal has been criticised for being an assimilationist Indian American rather than an atavistic one. He has tried to distance himself from his foreign origin, though the Indian-American community has embraced him and supported his political campaigns. He has accepted several Indian-American awards in recent years, including the India Abroad Person of the Year, but even on those occasions, he has stressed his essential American-ness. The mainstream Americans may have found this a positive trait.

To see Jindal just a heartbeat away from the US Presidency should gladden our hearts. If he makes it, it will be a jewel in the crown for Indian Americans. His loyalty will be to his country of adoption, but it will be a dream come true for Indian Americans. But Jindal's nomination is still in the area of speculation. Jindal himself has discounted his chances.

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