NRI,Piyush "Bobby" Jindal who shattered colour barrier

Washington, Nov. 04, 2004

Breaking the colour barrier in the deep south to make it to the US House of Representatives from a conservative district with a vast lead, it couldn't have gotten any better for Piyush "Bobby" Jindal.

The 33-year-old is now representative-elect from Louisiana's 1st District and probably the youngest congressman in the country.

When he was appointed by President George W. Bush as assistant secretary for planning and evaluation for the US Department of Health and Human Services back in 2001, Bobby had already made a name for himself.

He had already worked some of his wonders on the University of Louisiana, where his policies are credited with raising graduation and retention rates, and increasing private donations and the number of endowed chairs.

He had already come to Washington to be the executive director on the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare Commission, where he recommended ways to strengthen the then $210 billion healthcare programme that served 40 million older and disabled Americans.

Before that, tapped as secretary for Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals, he is credited with rescuing Louisiana's Medicaid programme from bankruptcy by turning a $400 million deficit into three years of surpluses totalling $220 million and pushing the state to third rank nationally in terms of highest health care screenings for children, immunisations, and expanded services for elderly and disabled Americans.

Born and brought up in Louisiana, Jindal, whose parents hail from the Punjab, headed Brown University's "Top 100" alumni, won the National Jefferson Award from the American Institute for Public Service for those younger than 35 years, an early sign of things to come; and named one of Top 10 Extraordinary Young Americans for the Next Millennium by Scholastic Update, again a prediction he made alive; not to forget the Rhodes scholarship he secured to go study at Oxford.

Married to Supriya Jolly, the couple are parents to Selia Elizabeth, 2, and Shaan Robert, just a few months old.
Jindal converted to Roman Catholicism as a teenager after being raised Hindu. His faith has been an important part of his personal and political growth.

On the campaign trail, Jindal secured the loyalty of virtually all parishes in his district, something he made an integral part of his stumping even during his race for governor of Louisiana last year. He lost that race, only to bounce back.

Like most Republican candidates and victors, Jindal has a strong anti-abortion platform, and he and his wife, who is also of Indian background, Catholic and Louisiana-born, had what is called a covenant marriage, a Louisiana innovation that mandates premarital counselling and sets stricter terms for divorce.

When Jindal was four or five years old, he came home from preschool and announced that his name was no longer Piyush, but Bobby, and the nickname has stuck.

Young Jindal's introduction to government came when former Louisiana governor Republican Mike Foster, impressed by an analysis that Jindal had written while working for a management consulting firm, tapped him to administer the state's healthcare system.