India duo poised for US success

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By K.P. NAYAR
  • Published 10.06.10
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Washington, June 9: When President Barack Obama arrives in New Delhi in November, badly bruised in all probability from the just concluded elections in America, he may find that his Indian hosts are actually ecstatic about the outcome of those polls.

The elections on November 2 are expected to throw up a second Indian American state governor, Nimrata (Nikki) Randhawa Haley, in South Carolina and California’s first woman attorney general, Kamala Harris.

The attorney-general’s post is the third most important job in California. If elected, Harris will be second in the line of succession to the governor. California is the world’s eighth largest economy.

Harris is Kamala’s maiden name: her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a noted oncologist on America’s west coast, married her father, a Stanford academic, Donald Harris.

Their marriage had caused quite a stir even in America of the 1960s because Prof. Harris is black and although Shyamala Gopalan had moved to the US, her family still retained their staunchly conventional Tamil Brahmin roots.

Harris emerged victorious in the Democratic party primary last night defeating six other formidable candidates and the focus on victory night was on how she would make history in her state as the first woman attorney-general.

Harris tried to make light of the situation with a quip: “I am sure a man could do the job just as well.” Conventional wisdom dictates that she will win in November in a state which is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Nikki Haley was just one per cent short of the mandatory requirement in South Carolina primaries that a winning candidate must secure 50 per cent of the votes cast.

It is almost certain that she will become the state’s Republican candidate for governor when a second round of voting is held on June 22.

South Carolina’s attorney general and lieutenant governor, who came third and fourth as vote getters yesterday, dropped out of the race. In the second round, Haley will face Gresham Barrett, a US Congressman who won only 22 per cent of votes yesterday.

Just as California is heavily Democratic, South Carolina is overwhelmingly Republican and conservative, more or less assuring Haley of easy passage to the governor’s mansion in the state-wide election in five months.

Haley was supported in the primary by the arch conservative “Tea Party” movement within her Republican party of which former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has become a potent symbol.

Haley is the daughter of Sikh immigrants, Ajit and Raj Randhawa, who own a textile shop in South Carolina which they started 24 years ago. Although she converted to Christianity and is now a Methodist, her Sikh origin was controversial during the primary.

Haley was called a “raghead” — a term of derision for people from the Orient by an opponent’s campaign igniting a firestorm of protest from Indian Americans and others.

She also faced multiple allegations of extra-marital affairs, but the charges, denied by Haley, appears to have won her considerable sympathy from women voters.

Haley is a three-term member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, extremely popular in her area having won by a landslide with 83 per cent of the votes in her last election in 2008.

Elections to the entire US House of Representatives and one third of the Senate are to be held along with voting to state legislatures and several gubernatorial mansions are to take place only a few days before Obama arrives in New Delhi.

His party is expected to fare badly in the polls.