The Politics of Bobby

bobby_jindal_1021.jpgWhen Bobby Jindal was elected the governor of the US state of Louisiana, for many Indian Americans it was gratifying to find someone who “looks like us”. It was also an inspiration and proof that Indian Americans can, in fact, achieve ‘great heights’.

His campaigns consisting mostly of a packed crowd of Indian ‘uncles and aunties’, majority of them attending, not because of what he supported, but for him being ‘one in the family’. But Jindal’s political views stand at opposite ends to the views of the Indian community. While he is a Conservative Republican, the Indian community that he supposedly ‘represents’ is largely Democratic. Clearly emphasizing the truth, that most of the Indians who voted for him, voted believing that he was one of them.

Obviously Bobby Jindal does play his cards right, appealing to his supporters through heart wrenching, melodramatic stories of the struggle that his parents had to go through as immigrants from India to achieve the Great American Dream saying “The only barrier to success is your willingness to work hard and play by the rules” amidst a cheering crowd of tearful Indians. Using his Indian origin as a trump card to win votes from his ‘family’ did lead to his landslide victory, winning 88% of the votes. However, according to Prof. Amardeep Singh, Bobby Jindal is likely to neither become a representative of the Indian community nor play a significant role in the Indo-US relations.

Born as a Hindu, Piyush took up Catholicism in college changing his name to Bobby that he adopted from the character Bobby in the television series The Brady Bunch. Going by his adopted Catholic beliefs, he supports the ban on abortion, opposes stem cell research and refutes the Darwin Theory of Evolution. The most troubling of all is his eagerness in policies such as daily compulsory prayer in schools, which troubles the Indian American community who are largely non-Christian. Other worrying attitudes are the lack of connection towards the largely African American community of Louisiana, his economic policies supporting the upper strata of society and the most controversial of all, his role as a co-sponsor of the Indo-US nuclear agreement. With a very glossy resume, which includes being part of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, many consider him to be a ‘manufactured’ politician. Changing his Indian name, Piyush to Bobby or his conversion to Catholicism is what is described as a crafty move to nurture his political ambition, many even claiming “being a catholic made it a little easier”. If he fails to solve the concerns or fails to be a representative of the very community that supported him, it so clearly seems bizarre or even ridiculous for the Indians to tearfully celebrate the victory of ‘their own’ in a country like America. Most now feel that for the re-election, he would have to run on his own record, and should not expect the support of the Indian community he relies upon.

So will Bobby (Piyush) Jindal live up to be the whimsical dreamer fantasizing about having an adventurous lifestyle, like the character Bobby in The Brady Bunch eerily whose ambitious, somewhat wishful thinking led to his paralysis?

Namita Nair