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In Punjab, US prez hopeful Nikki Haley has a cousin cheering for her — ‘will pray for her success’

Kanwaljit Singh's father was elder brother of Haley's father Sardar Ajit Singh. Hailing from Tarn Taran, the brothers parted ways as their jobs took them to different worlds.

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Chandigarh: For Kanwaljit Singh Randhawa, the Amritsar-based cousin of former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the news that she will be running for Republican party’s 2024 presidential nomination could not have come at a more opportune moment.

Kanwaljit Singh and his wife were packing for their long awaited pilgrimage trip to Nanded Sahib, one of the five Takhts of Sikhism, in Maharashtra when television news channels flashed the information.

Haley, 51, is the first Republican leader to challenge former US President Donald Trump in his second bid for the White House next year.

“What could have been more blessed than this. We will be on the train to Hazur Sahib at Nanded Sahib tomorrow,” Kanwaljit Singh told ThePrint over the phone Tuesday evening. “Needless to say that she will be on our minds at Hazur Sahib, and we will pray for her success. She has made our family so proud.”

Kanwaljit Singh, 75, lives at Verka in Amritsar. His father late Sardar Pritam Singh was elder brother of Haley’s father Sardar Ajit Singh. “Nikki’s father is my chachaji,” he explained.

Part of a close knit devout Sikh family that originally hailed from Pandori Ran Singh village in Tarn Taran, the two brothers were inseparable till jobs and careers took them to different worlds.

“My father went on to join the army and Ajit Singh joined the Punjab Agriculture University at Ludhiana as an ecologist. In the early 1960s, he left for Canada to do his PhD. He had got a scholarship. He was already married by then and had a son. From Canada he shifted to South Carolina in the US where Nimrata or Nikki, as we call her, was born in 1972,” Kanwaljit Singh recalled.

At South Carolina, Ajit Singh started teaching at Voorhees college. His wife Raj Kaur got a Master’s degree in education and taught at a school. A few years later, she started her clothing line, a business that Nikki joined after her university education.

On Tuesday, while announcing her intention to run for the US President, Nikki invoked her background as the “proud daughter of Indian immigrants”.

Born Nimrata Randhawa in Bamberg, South Carolina, Haley took the family name of her husband Michael when they got married in 1996. The marriage was solemnised according to Sikh and Christian traditions.

“When Nikki became the South Carolina governor in 2011, it was such a proud moment for all of us,” Kanwaljit Singh said. “I have never been able to visit the US but will do so soon.”

Kanwaljit Singh and his younger brother Paramjit Singh joined the Punjab government’s education department. After years of service, Kanwaljit Singh retired in 2005. “Paramjit went to the US. His son Mandeep is in North Carolina. We lost Paramjit three years ago,” he said.

Darshan Singh, the youngest brother, lives in Kapurthala. “We are two of the family members now living in Punjab. Our children are all settled in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand,” Kanwaljit Singh said.

In 2014 when Haley visited India and paid obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Kanwaljit Singh met her at the hotel where she was staying. “She could not come home because of all the security protocols, but it was a memorable meeting,” he said.

An emotional Haley had while talking to media persons described her visit as “really special and emotional.” The Indian-American politician said that she was not there as the Governor of South Carolina but as a humble human being.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: ‘Time for a new generation:’ Republican Nikki Haley announces bid for 2024 US presidency


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