Washington: South Carolina's Indian-American governor Nikki Haley's choice to give the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address has fuelled speculation about her as a potential vice presidential pick.
Born Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa, to Sikh immigrant parents from India, Haley at 43 the youngest governor in the country will give the Republican response to Obama's final annual address to the Congress Tuesday night.
A day later she will speak to Republican leaders gathered for the Republican National Committee's winter meeting in Charleston at a private event aboard the USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, influential Politico reported citing sources.
The following day, just before Republican presidential hopefuls gather for the debate, Haley is expected to have a private meeting with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, according to a source familiar with her plans.
"All this comes on the back of a strong year that saw her prospects in the veepstakes improve as Haley signed off on legislation removing the Confederate flag from Columbia and oversaw a state battered by a tragic massacre and a massive flood," the Politico said.
In August, at the RNC summer meeting in Cleveland, Haley was invited to be its luncheon headliner, the Politico noted.
In recent months, Haley has fostered a close relationship with Christie as well as with two other Republican White House hopefuls: Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, it said.
Over the course of the primary campaign, she has been exchanging text messages with all three candidates.
Haley said Thursday she plans to address the challenges in South Carolina and the nation that she thinks are the most important in her Republican response to Obama's address.
Haley declined to reveal details of what she plans to say, except to repeat that she is giving an "address" to the nation rather a "response" to Obama. "I certainly am not one to compete against the president or try to imply that I could be," Haley told reporters, according to Charlotte Observer.
Haley's selection, the Observer said, is seen as part of the Republican Party's attempts to win over female voters, who will have a chance to elect the first female president if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. But she called such talk a "waste of time".
When asked about being given such an honour, she smiled and said she was humbled by it. "You have to know I always go back to that 5-year-old Indian girl that lived in Bamberg. That just wondered what was out there," Haley said.
Haley was first elected South Carolina governor in 2010, becoming both the first woman and the first Indian-American to hold the top office in the state. She was re-elected in 2014.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)