In a classic case of a flood following a drought, political parties have fielded a large number of Indian-Australian candidates for state elections in Victoria, an indication of the growing profile of the Indian community Down Under.
The ruling Liberal Party has taken a lead by nominating nine Indian-Australian candidates for the lower and upper houses of the state parliament. The number assumes significance considering the fact that the total number of Liberal Party candidates (for the two houses) is 94.
The ruling party seems to be preparing the ground for the future by giving preference to South Asian community leaders. The Liberal Party is also addressing the Indian Australians’ complaint of under-representation in mainstream politics.
“I am happy to state that the Liberal Party is addressing the issue, as can be noticed from the number of candidates that the party has endorsed for the forthcoming state elections,” said Liberal Party candidate from Bundoora Amita Gill while answering a question posed about under-representation.
The Bundoora-based entrepreneur was also optimistic about the growing relations between India and Australia.
“The Liberal party is very sincere in promoting bilateral ties and relationship with India as can be ascertained from Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s visit to India and subsequently Mr. Modi’s visit to Australia,” said Amita Gill, who hails from Punjab.
Victoria is, incidentally, the most preferred destination for the Indian migrants, who are driving the size of the diaspora to unprecedented levels. It is estimated that Indians form 2.1 percent of Victoria’s approximately six million population.
Like elections in any other democratic set-up, there are a number of issues which can sway Victorian electorate one way or the other, with health, education, jobs, traffic management and infrastructure investment dominating the community debates.
“Through my business and marketing experience, I understand first-hand the importance of keeping local business strong to help support local jobs,” said George Varughese, who hails from Kerala, in a communique . “I will stand up for initiatives and projects that boost the local economy so that the benefits flow through to everyone in the Mill Park electorate,” the Liberal Party candidate added.
Lowering the cost of living and public transport are on the top of the agenda for veteran Indian Australian community leader Moti Visa. He is contesting the South Eastern Metropolitan Region seat of the Victorian Legislative Council on the Liberal Party ticket.
While all of the South Asian contestants are campaigning hard to get the voters’ nod on Saturday, one of them is facing rough weather as he has been dis-endorsed by the Liberal Party for an unthinkable reason.
It is alleged that the candidate from Thomastown, Nitin Gursahani, was sacked by the Liberal Party as his name was found on an online advertisement of a publicity event involving Indian Canadian adult film star Sunny Leone.
Besides Amita Gill, George Varughese and Moti Visa, the other Indian Australians contesting are Tarun Singh, Gandhi Bevinakoppa, Phulvinderjit Grewal, Dinesh Gourisetty and Amandeep Rosha (all Liberal Party), Jude Perera and Sanjay Nathan (both Labour); Perky Raj Khangure, Gurm Sekhon and Alexandra Bhathal (all Greens).
Migrant-dominated Tarneit in Melbourne’s west would see a number of South Asians locking horns. Abdul Mujeeb Syed, Safwat Ali and Dinesh Gourisetty would vie for honours in this constituency, with the third largest concentration of Indians in Australia. Shashi Turner, Gurmender Grewal, Brijender Nain, Chander Ojha are among the others in the fray.
Besides Indian Australians, a number of candidates from Sri Lankani, Pakistani and Afghani backgrounds are in the fray for the elections, which may see Labour snatch power back after just one term in opposition.