Page last updated at 03:45 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Profile: Bobby Jindal

Governor Bobby Jindal
Bobby Jindal is America's most high-profile Indian politician

Bobby Jindal, the 37-year old governor of Louisiana and the first Indian-American to occupy such a post, is one of the Republican Party's rising stars, tipped as a likely contender for the White House four years from now.

Piyush Jindal was born in Baton Rouge, the capital of the southern state of Louisiana, to Indian parents who had immigrated from the Punjab. He started calling himself Bobby from an early age and converted from Hinduism to Catholicism as a teenager.

After a spell at Oxford University and with the international consultancy firm, McKinsey, he was hired by Louisiana's governor to fix the state's healthcare problems.

He is credited with steering Louisiana's healthcare system towards a surplus after years of multi-million-dollar budget deficits.

His management skills attracted Washington's attention - and led President George W Bush to give him a top job in the Health and Human Services Department.

He resigned from that post in 2003 to return to Louisiana and run for governor.

Early politics

Narrowly beaten by the Democratic Party candidate, Kathleen Blanco, he decided a few weeks later to run for Congress in one of the state's most conservative districts, winning with 78% of the vote.

Bobby Jindal
I look at my success... as the ultimate embodiment of the American Dream
Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana
It was the first congressional election win for an Indian-American in almost 50 years, and was widely interpreted as a sign that America's Indian community, already well-known for successes in business and education, had finally come of political age.

Mr Jindal called it "the ultimate embodiment of the American dream".

In 2007, Mr Jindal announced his candidacy for governor of Louisiana. His former rival, Democrat Kathleen Blanco, had decided not to run again after widespread criticism of her office's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Mr Jindal took an early lead in the polls and managed to remain the favourite throughout the race, defeating 11 other candidates in the primary.

In 2008, Mr Jindal became, at 36, the youngest sitting governor in the United States and the first ever Indian-American governor.

Only a few months into his tenure, Governor Jindal oversaw one of the largest evacuations in US history when Hurricane Gustav was threatening the Louisiana coastline. He pulled out of a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention to co-ordinate the evacuation effort.

Conservative values

As governor, Bobby Jindal has made a name for himself among conservatives in the Republican Party.

The anti-abortion group, National Right to Life Committee, credits him with a 100% anti-abortion voting record.

Senator McCain and Governor Jindal
Many thought John McCain would pick Mr Jindal as his running mate

Mr Jindal has also expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage and voted No to human embryonic stem cell research.

A devout Catholic, he supports the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

But his appeal is not confined to the conservative wing of the party. His platform of cracking down on government waste and corruption has helped endear him to the Republican party as a whole.

In contrast to his predecessor in the job, Mr Jindal has also drawn praise for his efforts to spearhead recovery efforts in Louisiana after the devastation following Hurricane Katrina.

During the 2008 race for the US presidency, Mr Jindal was widely talked about as Senator John McCain's potential choice for the post of vice-president.

In the end, he lost out to another governor: Alaska's Sarah Palin. Party insiders said that at 37 he was just too young to be considered for such a senior post.


But since John McCain only won 31% of the Hispanic vote - compared to George W Bush's 44% in 2004 - the party has become increasingly sensitive to the need to attract more ethnic minorities to its ranks.

Having a standard-bearer, such as Bobby Jindal, in a party which has found itself becoming older and whiter in recent years, is a huge advantage.

He was chosen to respond to President Barack Obama's address to Congress, on behalf of the Republicans.

Speaking about his future plans, Mr Jindal has said his focus is on re-election as Louisiana governor in 2011.

He has refused to be drawn on the question of whether he will run for his party's nomination for president in four years' time - but already analysts are speculating that the US's African-American president could face an Indian-American challenge.

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