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Rediff.com  » News » Nikki Haley, the doer who loves to be underestimated

Nikki Haley, the doer who loves to be underestimated

By Lalit K Jha
February 14, 2023 21:44 IST
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Dubbed as Jobs Governor”, Haley turned South Carolina's economy around during her tenure as governor and transforming the state into a manufacturing powerhouse.

She cut taxes, repealed burdensome regulations, and turned South Carolina into the Beast of the Southeast”.

Under her leadership, figures note, the state's unemployment rate hit a 15-year low, and when she left office, South Carolina was at full employment.

IMAGE: Nikki Haley. Photograph: PTI Photo

Nikki Haley, who announced her 2024 US presidential bid, has not only taken on political insiders in South Carolina but also confronted countries like China and Russia during her stint at the UN.

In her speeches, Haley, 51, identifies herself as a ”proud daughter of Indian immigrants”, whereas in public life her friends and foes describe her as a "conservative outsider", a "trailblazer", and a "fighter".

 

Born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa to immigrant Punjabi Sikh parents in Bamberg, she is the two-term governor of South Carolina and the former US ambassador to the United Nations.

She earned an accounting degree from Clemson University. After that, she joined her family's clothing business.

Before entering public service, she served as treasurer and president of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

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 under the previous Trump administration.

Being a woman from an ethnic minority community, the pundits have underestimated Haley her whole life, and she has proven them wrong every time.

She defeated a 30-year Republican incumbent when she ran for the state legislature.

She defeated better known and better funded Republicans when she ran for the governor and defied expectations at the UN and showed the world what real leadership looks like.

As Nikki likes to say, ”Underestimate me -- that'll be fun.”

As the governor of South Carolina, she was known as a job creator, reformer and conservative champion, while as diplomat at the UN, she was a reformer, fighter, and human rights champion.

At the UN, she ushered in a new era for Israel at the global body, urging ex-President Donald Trump to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and defending the US's ”sovereign right” to do so.

She also stood up for Israel's right to defend itself and condemned the UN's routine anti-Israel bias.

Haley established a close relationship with India, recognised its voice and frequently consulted New Delhi on various issues of importance for the global community.

She visited India in 2018 and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed ways to enhance India-US cooperation at multiple levels, including counter-terrorism.

At the UN, she negotiated the strongest set of sanctions against North Korea, convincing China and Russia to sign onto the agreement.

Known as the ”Iran whisperer”, she was instrumental in making the case for repealing former US President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal.

Haley held the UN accountable, leading America's withdrawal from the corrupt and anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council. She negotiated historic reforms at the UN, cutting the UN budget and making the global body's missions more effective and transparent.

At the UN, she was the Trump administration's most vocal critic of Russia. She also took on the world's worst human rights abusers, including  North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria.

For her work at the UN, Forbes had named her one of the world's 100 most powerful women.

Haley's term at the UN marked significant change in US-China relations. She confronted China's Uyghur atrocities and re-education camps, and warned of the existential threat China has on America and the world.

Nikki pushed for and signed a bill that put legislative votes on the record.

Dubbed as ”Jobs Governor”, Haley turned South Carolina's economy around during her tenure as governor and transforming the state into a manufacturing powerhouse.

She cut taxes, repealed burdensome regulations, and turned South Carolina into ”the Beast of the Southeast”.

Under her leadership, figures note, the state's unemployment rate hit a 15-year low, and when she left office, South Carolina was at full employment.

At the end of her tenure, more South Carolinians were working than at any other time in history, and the state was outperforming the national average.

Her state administration moved thousands of South Carolinians from welfare to work.

She signed a voter ID bill and defended it against Obama's lawsuit.

Haley describes herself as a proudly pro-lifer and speaks openly about her trouble having kids and her husband's adoption. As governor, she signed key pro-life bills and enacted initiatives to help pregnant women and new moms.

She is known for offering steady, compassionate leadership through many crises, including a mass shooting by a white supremacist, a police shooting, hurricanes, two ice storms, and a 1,000-year flood.

She averted riots that engulfed other states and negotiated a bipartisan compromise to take down the Confederate flag from the Statehouse.

Supporting the military and their families is personal for Haley. In 2013, her husband Michael, a combat veteran, deployed to Afghanistan, making her the first governor in US history to have her spouse deployed. 

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Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
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