Prominent Indian-American politician Nikki Haley launched her presidential campaign on Tuesday, becoming the first Republican to challenge former US President Donald Trump in his 2024 bid for the White House.
Haley, 51, is the two-term governor of South Carolina and the former US ambassador to the United Nations.
"I'm Nikki Haley, and I'm running for president,” she announced in a video message.
"It's time for a new generation of leadership -- to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border, and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose. Some people look at America and see vulnerability. The socialist left sees an opportunity to rewrite history,” she said.
Identifying herself as proud daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley talks about growing up in Bamberg, South Carolina, and how it shaped her belief in a strong and proud America.
”We turned away from fear toward God and the values that still make our country the freest and greatest in the world. We must turn in that direction again,” she said.
Casting herself as a younger, fresher alternative to Trump, Haley had been hinting at a White House bid for weeks.
Her formal declaration means she will be the first contender to join the contest against her former 76-year-old boss Trump, who announced his third bid for the White House late last year.
"Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections that have to change. Joe Biden's record is abysmal, but that shouldn't come as a surprise. The Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again. It's time for a new generation of leadership to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose,” Haley said.
”China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied. Kicked around. You should know this about me: I don't put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you're wearing heels,” she said.
Before entering the presidential ballot, Haley has to win the Republican Party's presidential primary which will start in January next year. The next US presidential election is scheduled to be held on November 5, 2024.
Haley's 3-minute 30 seconds video starts with her voiceover, describing the racial divide of the city she was born in.
”The railroad tracks divided the town by race. I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants, not black, not white. I was different, but my mom would always say, your job is not to focus on the differences, but the similarities,” she said.
"And my parents reminded me and my siblings every day how blessed we were to live in America. Some look at our past as evidence that America's founding principles are bad. They say the promise of freedom is just made up. Some think our ideas are not just wrong, but racist and evil. Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said.
Born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa to immigrant Punjabi Sikh parents, Haley is the third Indian-American to run for US presidency in three consecutive election cycles.
Bobby Jindal ran in 2016 and Vice President Kamala Harris in 2020.
Haley is the second woman of colour to ever seek the Republican Party's nomination for the White House. The first was Angel Joy Chavis Rocker, a school counsellor from Florida, who entered the 2000 presidential race, becoming the first African-American to do so.
"I have seen evil. In China they commit genocide. In Iran they murder their own people for challenging the government. And when a woman tells you about watching soldiers throw her baby into a fire, it puts things in perspective,” she said in the video.
”Even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America. I was born and raised in South Carolina, so I have seen the very best of our country. People here throughout the old tired political establishment and demanded accountability for their tax dollars.
"Industry reports called us the Beast of the Southeast, which I loved. People came by the thousands for fresh starts. Moms and dads held their heads up high. Children learned that it was always, it's a great day in South Carolina. .. We were strong, we were proud,” she said.
Indian Americans welcomed her announcement.
"On behalf of the large and influential Indian American community, wish her well and all the success in the coming days and pray she will succeed to be a Republican nominee of Republican in 2024. We will assure our community support in every way,” Republican fundraiser Sampat Shivangi said.
”A rare quality of Haley is that she has not forgotten her roots and her ancestral homeland India as she visited India and interacted with leadership in India including meeting our beloved leader Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi,” Shivangi said.
Haley's formal announcement came weeks after she tweeted on February 1: "My family and I have a big announcement to share with you on February 15th! And yes, it's definitely going to be a Great Day in South Carolina!"
Haley was born to Sikh parents Ajit Singh Randhawa and Raj Kaur Randhawa, who had emigrated from Punjab to Canada and then to the US in the 1960s.
Her father was a professor at Punjab Agricultural University, and her mother received a law degree from Delhi University.
Haley had famously said previously that she would not challenge Trump if he ran again, before changing her stance, arguing the US needs to look towards a different path.
”It's time for a new generation. It's time for new leadership. And it's time to take our country back. America is worth the fight -- and we're just getting started," she tweeted last month.
In an interview with Fox News last month, she said the US needs a ”new leader” who can take the country in a new direction.
"We cannot have another term of Joe Biden. And we have to remember, too, we have lost the last seven out of eight popular votes for president. It is time that we get a Republican in there that can lead and can win a general election," she had said.
At 39, Haley was the youngest governor in the US when she took office in January 2011, and made history as South Carolina's first female governor. She was also the state's first Indian-American governor and would go on to serve for two terms.
From January 2017 to December 2018, she served as the 29th US ambassador to the United Nations.