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Best moment when Christ found me: Jindal

By Aziz Haniffa in New Orleans, LA
Last updated on: November 13, 2003 19:35 IST
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Republican Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal -- who, according to the latest polls, is leading his Democratic rival Kathleen Blanco by a wafer-thin margin for the runoff for the Louisiana governorship -- said the most defining moment in his life "came as a high school teenager when I found my faith".

"I like to say to say that Christ found me. I didn't find him because if it was still up to me I'd still be looking. And it's certainly something that has changed my life, it's changed the kind of man that I am, the kind of husband, the kind of father, I've tried to be."

Jindal for Governor: The Full Coverage

During the final debate in a New Orleans television studio where the questioners were the anchors of the five major TV stations in the state, the last question asked of both candidates was to describe the most defining moments in their lives.

Jindal, with his wife Supriya, his 20-month-old daughter Selia Elizabeth, his parents, and his in-laws sitting in the audience, noted that "there are several other moments that have been very important. The birth of my first child -- we got another on the way. I don't have to describe to parents the joy of bringing home a beautiful baby girl from the same hospital where I was born right here in Louisiana.

"Certainly, getting married to my beautiful wife -- and Kathleen is right, I married better than I deserve. She's right to compliment me on my family because I don't deserve thatÂ…

"So several very special moments, but the most important moment was the finding of my faith, was really Christ finding me... telling me what was important in life. It's not just about titles, about money, it about serving a higher purpose."

Blanco, for her part, got all choked up and extremely emotional and couldn't speak for a few moments, but then she said, "The most defining moment in my life came when I lost a child. To know that I could survive it and to know that the state of Louisiana, the people of Louisiana, were there to lift me in prayer and to know that I had to reach to my family and hold my family together, and to know that those were the moments when you have to really, really know if you have faith and if faith can bring you where it needs to bring you. It's very hard for me to talk about.

"But I found that inner strength and that inner peace in that knowledge that so many people across the state of Louisiana were in my same circumstance. It was shocking to learn how many children we've lost."

Both candidates, who have also said that if elected they would govern by their Christian values, were earlier asked if that would not be detriment to other faiths practised by the people of Louisiana.

Jindal said, "My faith is an important part of who I am. It certainly forms the person I try to be and the kind of governor I'll try to be in terms of honesty, in terms of being compassionate to other people, in terms of respecting the value of life and promoting marriage.

"We live in a pluralistic society. We live in a society, in a state, in a country... one of its greatest virtues is our emphasis on freedom, of letting people worship as they choose, not having the state force religion on people."

He said he saw not conflict in "living our Christian faiths as governors" and also "recognising the diversity that this such a great country".

Both Jindal and Blanco have been in sync thus far on social issues, but during the debate Blanco, despite being pro-life, diluted her anti-abortion stand a bit when in came to rape or incest cases.

Jindal maintained his strong anti-abortion stand even in cases of rape and incest, saying that "there are rare situations when the mother's life and the child's life" are both in danger. "My church teaches and my faith teaches that there are procedures that can be done, which will result in the saving of the mother's life, even though resulting indirectly in the regrettable loss of the child's life.

Asked about incest or rape, he reiterated, "These are awful cases, but if we do believe there's a precious human life, no matter what circumstances caused it, created it -- and again I say this with the utmost compassion and with full sensitivity -- we still treat that as a precious human life."

Both Jindal and Blanco also said their candidacies showed the evolving of Louisiana as a progressive state and would impact positively on the state's image.

Jindal said his election "would send a loud message across the state and across the country that Louisiana is ready to put the old style politics behind us. It would be a loud message to corporate boardrooms to take a new look at Louisiana. To come and invest."

Blanco said, "It speaks so loudly to what Louisiana is wanting to be. I am very proud of the fact that Louisiana has chosen to look past the issue of gender. It says that Louisiana is really tired of the positions of the past and we want to move on. We want to be part of the new economy. We want to be part of mainstream America."

But if this final showdown was aimed at helping voters --particularly the "undecideds" -- making up their minds, it was of no help. Both candidates did not come off looking bad, though they didn't come off looking very good either.

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Aziz Haniffa in New Orleans, LA