Meet Nikki Haley, the Next Indian American Governor of a US State

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Nikki Haley is not destined to be the first Indian American governor of a US state. No that honor already belongs to Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Haley however is poised to do something greater and that is to become the first minority female governor as she competes for South Carolina’s highest office on Tuesday November 2.

Already the first Indian to hold office in South Carolina, she currently serves as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from the 87th district. A past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, she is a CFO and an accountant by trade who worked in her mother’s apparel business that has grown into a multi-million dollar company.

Although born to Sikh parents, she converted to Methodism after marrying her husband Michael Haley and describes herself as a Christian. Her religious conversion as well as her ethnicity has not hampered her dreams of becoming the first female governor of South Carolina.  Neither have allegations of extramarital affairs or reports of paying taxes late.

Nikki Haley’s candidacy received a boost when Sarah Palin and Tea Party officials gave her their backing for the election and she is leading her opponent, Democrat Vincent Sheheen, in most polls. If she wins, this will not be the first time she has won in a state where politics is mainly a male run enterprise. In 2004, she challenged and won against Rep. Larry Koon who was South Carolina legislature’s longest serving member, having served 30 years in the House. She is a tough lady who also happens to have a concealed weapons permit and strongly supports gun rights, a staple of Republican Party values.

Aside from Haley, an unprecedented number of Indian Americans are contesting for office this year across the country. There is Manan Trivedi in Pennsylvania running for the House of Representatives in the state legislature. Others running for house seats in their states are Ami Bera in California, Raj Goyle in Kansas, Ravi Sangisetty in Louisiana, where Bobby Jindal is the governor, and Surya Yalamanchili in Ohio.

After making inroads into American boardrooms with top jobs in the corporate world such as Vikram Pandit, the CEO at Citibank and Indra Nooyi, the boss at PepsiCo, Indian Americans are exploring opportunities in politics which is good for America as more involvement by minorities in public service makes the country stronger and shows that there is room for everyone at the top. Many other minorities also can take encouragement from her candidacy and be mindful that race and ethnicity is not always a barrier for running for office and that the right candidate and platform can land a person in the governor’s mansion.

Should Nikki Haley be successful in winning the governorship of South Carolina, she will instantly become one of the rising young stars of the Republican Party and a face for women leaders the world over. Regardless where you stand on the political aisle, her candidacy and subsequent election will be a turning point in the US for Indian Americans and South Asians who have become an indispensable part of the nation’s fabric.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s  Note 11/03/2010We at Pakistanis for Peace want to congratulate Nikki Haley for winning the governorship of South Carolina in a very tough and hard fought race. Both as an American as well as ethnically being a person from the Indian subcontinent aka Desi, we are proud to see her elected to serve as governor, despite disagreeing with her party on many issues.

Her rise as well as that of Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana to the top of American politics is a source of pride for all Desis, be they Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, etc. We invite people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds to join our Facebook group at Pakistanis for Peace and strengthen those who support peace between India and Pakistan and around the world. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37793413510&v=wall

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