Washington: From a state legislature to
governor of South Carolina in just a short span of six years
in politics, Nikki Randhawa Haley, is being hailed as a new
rising star on the American political horizon.
Daughter of Punjabi Sikh immigrants from Amritsar,
Namrata Nikki Randhawa Haley, who has become the first Indian
origin woman to become the governor of a US state has been
propelled to centre stage of American politics after her
baptisation into politics in 2004.
She is the second Indian-American leader after Bobby
Jindal, the governor of Louisina to have caught the attention
of the Americans.
It has not all been smooth sailing for the tall Haley,
mother of two children, son Nalin, 9, and daughter Rena, 12 as
she had to overcome allegations of extra-marital affairs and
racial digs in her race to become the first Asian woman to don
a US governorship.
Months before she announced her intention to run for
the gubernatorial assignment, Nikki, 38, was little known on
the American national horizon, but she turned the tables on
her democrat rivals by winning endorsement from political
heavyweights like the former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and
another top Republican leader Mitt Rotney.
In a roller-coaster ride to governor`s chair, Nikki
as she has popularly come to be known has also the rare
distinction of appearing on the cover of the Newsweek.
She fought a tough battle in the primaries as also in
the final run for the governorship receiving 52 per cent of
the polled votes as against her Democratic rival Vincent
Sheehan, who polled 46 per cent.
The much expected victory did not come before giving
some anxious moment to Haley and her campaign.
For some portion of the counting of votes, Haley was
trailing, and then running neck-to-neck with Sheehan before
she took a handsome unbeatable lead.
Despite initial hiccups, when she was little known
outside South Carolina, Nikki appeared confident way back in
"I know, I am going to make this happen. I am going
to win the race," Nikki told Press Trust of India in an
interview at the Capitol Hill in June 2009, where she attended
a luncheon fund raising event for her organised by the Indian
American Republican Political Action Committee.
"My parents are extremely proud. My husband is very
supportive. My children are excited. My siblings are willing
go out work for me," she said.
"When I started to see issues, they (parents) were
the first cheer leaders to do this," she said. When asked of the increasing trend that in the last
couple of years a large number of young Indian Americans like
her are coming forward in politics, she said: "I think, Indian
American issues are American issues. We want to get involved
earlier because we realise that what is happening in
government, will affect us and our children."
"I think, more young people need to get involved."
Briefing about her agenda and issues, Nikki said her
goal would be to rein in spending and to provide jobs to
people in State, to try and improve education, and make health
care accessible in South Carolina.
In 2004, Nikki was the first Republican Indian
American to win a State House seat.
She is recognised as a pro-business leader in the
fight for lower taxes and less government, as well as an
outspoken advocate for added accountability in the
In 2008 Representative Haley was sent back to the
statehouse with 83 per cent of the vote the highest
percentage earned by any lawmaker facing a contested South
Carolina election that year.
She won the Republican Party nomination for governor
of South Carolina on Tuesday, June 22, 2010. Her time in
Columbia has been marked by conservative leadership and an
unwavering commitment to the taxpayers` bottom line.
She has fought wasteful spending at every turn,
pushed for smaller, more efficient government, and led the
fight for the accountability and transparency that before her
arrival was sorely lacking in the Legislature.
Born in Bamberg, South Carolina, Nikki’s first job
was keeping the books for her family`s clothing store ? at the
age of 13.
She went on to graduate from Clemson University with
a BS degree in accounting and following her graduation worked
as Accounting Supervisor for the Charlotte, North Carolina
based corporation FCR, Inc. and five of its subsidiaries.
Nikki then went back to the family business where she
helped oversee its growth into a multi-million dollar