Who Is Nikki Haley's Father? Ajit Singh Randhawa's Story Begins Long Before He Reached South Carolina
In the official Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address last week, South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley declared herself "the proud daughter of Indian immigrants," prompting many to wonder just who Haley's parents are. Although widely noted to be the first Indian immigrants to make Bamberg, South Carolina their home, Haley's father's story begins long before they put down roots in the small American town.
Haley's father, Ajit Singh Randhawa, is a Sikh who first immigrated to Canada with his wife Raj Kaur Randhawa from Punjab's Amritsar District in India, after receiving a scholarship to the University of British Columbia. After finishing his PhD in 1969, Randhawa opted to follow a job lead to the United States, rather than return to India as he and his wife had originally planned. Randhawa's "decision to leave a great life in India and start over" in South Carolina stemmed from a professor position he obtained at Voorhees College.
Simran Singh, Haley's sister, claimed that her parents came to America "with $8 in cash and a strong work ethic" in a blog post she published shortly after Haley won the South Carolina governorship in 2010.
Singh further describes her father's character when speaking about the values he and his wife passed down to her and Haley:
Dad exhibited a silent, calm strength, one steeped in a deep spirituality and intense faith. He showed us how to appreciate the beauty of life and all experiences as part of a magnificent tapestry. Our core strengths and hearts are of him. In the end, those subtle messages were what shaped all of us.
Like many male Sikhs, Randhawa does not cut his hair and wears the traditional pagri (known more commonly as a turban). Haley subtly touched on this in her rebuttal speech, saying, "growing up in the rural south, my family didn't look like our neighbors." Haley's sister wrote more in depth about some of the racial discrimination their parents faced in Bamberg:
My parents were trying to rent a home in Bamberg and the same physician so kindly tried to help. He found a wonderful small home and we moved in. That night he returned to take back the keys as the owners did not want an Indian family renting their home. He found us a second home and we moved. The next night he was back. Once again we were being evicted because of our brown skin.
Many saw the Republican party's decision to have Haley give their official SOTU rebuttal as a strategic effort to expand the party's voter base. Certainly, her ancestry and unique understanding of immigration issues presents a viewpoint not often seen in the Grand Old Party, which could come to benefit them this election year.