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Gustav roar spoils Jindal plans

Minneapolis/St.Paul (Minnesota), Sept. 1: Indian American Republicans who had hoped to offset the Democratic Party's tryst with colour in Denver last week are disappointed that Hurricane Gustav has swept away their best laid plans.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was to have made history here this week by addressing the Republican National Convention on its third day during prime time. No one of Indian descent has ever addressed a national convention of any American political party.

Hurricane Gustav has, however, forced Jindal to abandon his plans to travel to Minnesota to attend his party's national convention as Louisiana takes the brunt of the hurricane.

The Republican convention will convene here later today with only two and a half hours of business on its opening day instead of the planned seven.

The highlights of today's proceedings were to have been speeches by president George W Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney, but both of them have cancelled their appearances and Bush has flown to his home state of Texas to deal personally with the hurricane.

For up and coming politicians in America, prime time addresses during presidential nominating conventions are tickets to big slots in national politics, often the presidency.

Barack Obama was keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, when he was virtually unknown to anyone outside his home state of Illinois, where he was state Senator at that time.

But after his impressive convention speech four years ago, Obama's rise in national politics has been meteoric culminating in his nomination last week as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.

Jindal, at 37, is America's youngest governor, and one of America's ambitious politicians who is said to be harbouring an eventual run for the White House.

His supporters across America had lobbied hard in recent weeks to make him the keynote speaker at the Republican convention here. They had even started a petition drive to achieve this.

A measure of prime time exposure during political conventions in the US is the rating that Obama's speech at the Democratic Party convention in Denver last week was watched by 40 million Americans on television.

Republican presidential aspirant John McCain recognises Jindal's importance because of the latter's extreme conservative views and his appeal among Christian evangelicals who are the backbone of the Republican Party in America's south.

Jindal had been shortlisted as a vice presidential running mate, but eventually McCain settled on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the keynote speech in order to buttress his image as a presidential nominee whose strength is national security.

So, although he did not give Jindal the keynote role at his nominating convention, he did make him the prime time speaker on Wednesday.

Normally, by the time political conventions get to their third day, excitement is near high and momentum has built up in anticipation of the acceptance speech by a party's presidential candidate.

The third day is also when the vice presidential candidate accepts the nomination.

If everything had gone as planned, Jindal would have addressed the convention after the presidential nominee's wife, Cindy McCain, but before Sarah Palin, this year's presumptive vice presidential candidate.

He will now have to wait another four years before he gets this big break on the national scene.

On the bright side, however, if Jindal handles the challenge of Hurricane Gustav, he will enhance his reputation as a good chief executive. But such reputations do not have mass appeal and falls far short of the magic of prime time appearance at a political convention, watched by millions from coast to coast here.

It was the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 which cost Louisiana's then popular governor Kathleen Blanco her job. Jindal rode to power on the back of her dismal failure to deliver to her people three years ago.

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