Beyond partisanship, Indian-American community leaders see political headway in Haley candidacy

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Beyond partisanship, Indian-American leaders view Nikki Haley’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination as an example of the community making political headway.

“Haley represents the headway the community has been steadily making,” Thomas Abraham, the chairman of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO).

Indian-Americans now have five in the 435-member House of Representatives which is close to the percentage of Indian-American citizens and Kamala Harris as Vice President, he said.

Indian Americans in both parties have aspired for the highest offices, he said.

He also pointed to Rishi Sunak becoming the British Prime Minister as an example of people of Indian origin rising to top leadership positions.

M.R. Rangaswai, the founder of Indiaspora, said: “It is exciting to see another Indian-American step up to run for the highest office in the US.

“Over the past decade, we have witnessed our community going from no representation to now having a Vice President and five members of Congress.”

Indiaspora is an organization that promotes leadership by people of Indian descent worldwide.

“It is gratifying to see our community participate in all facets of public service,” Rangaswami said.

A sign of the growing political involvement of Indian Americans is that in the 2020 general elections over 300 from the community ran for the city, state, and federal offices, he said.

For Rajwant Singh, the Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), Haley’s candidacy has a special resonance as her turban-wearing father’s visibility in public events at her side shows the rich heritage of Sikhism and Sikhs’ participation in American life.

Haley’s father appeared by her side wearing a bright red turban during the televised Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings to confirm her as the Permanent Representative to the UN.

He was also a prominent presence when she was sworn in as the Governor of South Carolina.

“You may disagree with her policies and her political views but it is still a remarkable journey,” he said.

“It is important for Americans to see that she belongs to a rich heritage and turban-wearing Sikhs are part of her immediate family,” Rajwant Singh said.

“This widens the horizon for many people including Sikhs to aspire for the highest office in the US.”

Danny Gaekwad, a Republican Party activist and fundraiser who had hosted former President Donald Trump’s meeting with Indian Americans during the 2020 campaign, called Haley “a role model for Indian Americans”.

“I hope she wins, but regardless of the primaries’ outcome, she will have made a mark on American politics as an Indian-American — I emphasize, as an Indian-American proud of her heritage,” he said.

He said that it “is rewarding to see Indian-Americans taking the lead in politics”.

“Even though I am a Republican, I am happy to see Indian-Americans rising in the Democratic Party also like (member of the House of Representatives) Raja Krishnamoorthy.”

Haley is the third Indian-American to seek nomination for President.

The first was Bobby Jindal who ran against Trump for the Republican nomination in 2016 and lost.

He is a former Governor of Louisiana, a southern state like Haley’s South Carolina.

Jindal was elected to the House in 2004, ending a 45-year gap since Dalip Singh Saund the first Indian-American elected to Congress ended his term in 1959.

Kamala Harris launched a campaign for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination against President Joe Biden, but withdrew before the primaries and was picked by Biden for Vice President.

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