I entered politics to follow Obama: Indian American
Wednesday, 26 August 2009, 10:15 Hrs | 3 Comments
Like Obama, the desire for public service led Krishnamoorthi, 36, to opt out of a lucrative legal career.
And if Krishnamoorthi emulates the success of Obama, who went from being a rank political outsider to the first African American president, Krishnamoorthi, too, could end up being the first Indian American elected to public office in Illinois.
Illinois state politics has of late been in the grip of scandals involving deposed Governor Rod Blagojevich. The scandals have embroiled several prominent Indian Americans, although none has been charged of any crime.
High on his agenda, declared Krishnamoorthi, is good governance. "We need people in government who believe public service is an opportunity to help others, not just a 'friends and family' plan," he said.
The Illinois state comptroller is the chief fiscal officer of Illinois whose duties include serving as the taxpayer's financial watchdog, administering the state's payroll and employee benefits and overseeing the state's cemeteries and funeral homes.
Krishnamoorthi was the deputy treasurer of Illinois, a post he quit recently to run the present campaign.
Krishnamoorthi acknowledged Obama, who started his political career as a community organiser in Chicago, as his mentor. "I entered public life to follow Barack's example," he said, "I believe, as he does, that well-run government is not an oxymoron. We need a government willing to embrace new rules and new technologies that can make it more efficient and more effective."
"Life is full of tradeoffs," Krishnamoorthi told IANS when asked the inevitable question -- why he left a law firm to work with the state. "I have taken a drop in compensation for the chance to work in the public arena."
But beyond personal fulfilment, he is also driven by a desire to repay a debt, long overdue. "When we came to the U.S., we had very little for a short time," he said, "My father was well educated, but it was a recession and we went through very tough times. We stayed in public housing. Being an immigrant student in a recession is not easy. But the government came through for us. It lifted us by our bootstraps. My family owes a debt of gratitude and I intend to repay it any way I can."
If Krishnamoorthi needed any validation of his aspirations, it came from Obama in a recent 'one on one' meeting with the President at the Oval office of the White House.
"He gave me some personal advice -- you have got to campaign in all parts of the state, you have to address the substance of the office; it is not just a popularity contest. And you have to campaign honorably. I promised him I will," Krishnamoorthi said.
"In the best traditions of Barack Obama, we are trying to run this campaign at a grassroots level but also in a way that is intelligent and cost effective," Krishnamoorthi said in the interview. "As I am talking to you I am standing between two cornfields( in rural Illinois)."
One of Krishnamoorthi's treasured photographs is of then Illinois state senator Barack Obama relishing an Indian lunch at his boyhood home in Peoria, Illinois. "Despite all the trappings (of the presidential office) he is still the same Barack Obama he was as an Illinois state senator. Very down to earth and affable."
The visit did not fully sink in till Krishnamoorthi left the premises and he realised he did not walk out with any souvenir. "I did get bottled water, but it did not have the White House seal. I think there was a bowl of apples in front of me. Given the fact that whatever Obama touches turns into gold, I should have stuffed them in my pocket and sold them on eBay to finance my campaign."
Krishnamoorthi has so far raised more than $400,000 for his campaign, ahead of the other candidates. He said he was confident that like Obama, and Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois state treasurer and his former boss, voters will look beyond his name and ethnicity. And to inquisitive Illinois voters seeking the meaning of his family name, Krishnamoorthi's reply, tongue firmly in cheek, is: "It translates as Illinois State Comptroller".
Post your Comment
All form fields are required.