Jindal takes oath as Louisiana governor in US, creates history

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York : History was created Monday morning when Bobby Jindal became the first Indian American to become governor of a US state.

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He took oath as Louisiana governor at the state Capitol in Baton Rouge, at a grand inaugural ceremony attended by thousands that featured live music, a 19-cannon salute and fly past by F-15 fighter jets.

An inaugural ball was scheduled for Monday night in Baton Rouge.

Jindal faces daunting challenges as the governor of a state that was not long ago devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Significantly, Jindal is the first non-White governor in the country since a Reconstruction era figure held the job briefly 130 years ago.

The 36-year-old Jindal is also the youngest governor of a US state.

In the election for governor in October 2007, Republican Jindal secured over 50 percent votes, trouncing his nearest competitors, Democrat Walter Boasso and independent John Georges, who won less than 20 percent votes.

Jindal’s ascension in Louisiana means that the over three million strong Indian American community will now go un-represented in the US Congress. He was only the second Indian American to sit in Congress after Dilip Singh Saund, who represented a California district from 1957 to 1963. Jindal ran for Congress in 2004, easily winning in a conservative suburban New Orleans district and cruised to re-election in 2006.

As a 24-year-old, Jindal was appointed head of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. He served President George W. Bush as assistant secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services from 2001-03, until his first bid for governor four years ago when he lost to Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

Jindal was born Piyush in Baton Rouge to a Hindu family. As a youth, he started calling himself Bobby in an attempt to assimilate into the American society, and as a teenager converted to Roman Catholicism.

His family migrated from Punjab. His father, an engineer from a rural background, came to Louisiana to attend graduate school.

Bobby Jindal is married to Supriya and they have three children.