Indian-Americans Feel 'Disappointed,' 'Abandoned' By Bobby Jindal The Louisiana governor, who has suspended his presidential campaign, was the first Indian-American to run for the nation's highest office. But his bid didn't feel historic to many Indian-Americans.

Indian-Americans Feel 'Disappointed,' 'Abandoned' By Bobby Jindal

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It was not a big surprise when Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal suspended his campaign for president. He was the first Indian-American to run for that office and a rising star in the Republican Party. And there was a time when Jindal's political aspirations were a point of pride in the Indian-American community. But as NPR's Asma Khalid reports, that quickly fizzled.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Sanjay Puri remembers meeting a young Bobby Jindal at an Indian-American social event more than a decade ago. He was instantly impressed.

SANJAY PURI: He was a whiz-kid, very high intellect, and he's exceptionally bright.

KHALID: Puri runs the U.S.-India Political Action Committee, which helped Jindal when he first ran for Congress.

PURI: It was a great moment of pride. And so we did fundraisers, but we also started connecting him with the rest of the community around the country.

KHALID: Indian physicians, businessmen and motel owners, Republicans and Democrats alike wrote him checks, and he won that race. Jindal went on to become the first Indian-American governor in the country. But quickly, the golden son became the black sheep. When Jindal announced he was running for president this summer, he said this.


BOBBY JINDAL: And I am done with all this talk about hyphenated Americans. We are not Indian-Americans, African-Americans...

KHALID: That moment disappointed a lot of Indian-Americans like Versha Sharma.

VERSHA SHARMA: He had so much potential, but the route that he chose to go with was, I don't believe in hyphenated Americans, you know? I don't believe in this hybrid immigrant story existence.

KHALID: Sharma, like Jindal, grew up with Indian immigrant parents in Louisiana. And while she does not think Jindal has to wear his Indian-ness on his sleeve, she says he should've at least acknowledged it. Instead, she says Jindal has deliberately downplayed the discrimination that immigrants like her family face.

SHARMA: He has decided not just to, like, stay silent on these issues but to go in the opposite direction and say - almost say that there aren't issues like it's not a problem.

KHALID: Her feelings are not unusual in the Indian-American community. Karthick Ramakrishnan is a public policy professor at UC Riverside. He recently surveyed a group of Indian-Americans and found that Bobby Jindal had among the lowest approval rating of all Republican candidates.

KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: They felt that he was inauthentic, that he was trying to run away from his identity and that he was embarrassed about being Indian.

KHALID: Bobby Jindal's identity politics may have offended a lot of Indians, but his conservative policies were completely out of sync with the way most of them vote. Again, Sanjay Puri.

PURI: Bobby is very, very, very conservative, and over time, he's just gotten more and more conservative. The Indian-American community is not. They're a fiscally conservative, socially liberal community.

KHALID: But in the end, it wasn't Bobby Jindal's identity politics that tanked his campaign. Jindal struggled to raise money, failed to gain traction in debates and never quite stood out in a Republican field dominated by outsiders. Asma Khalid, NPR News.

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