Australian Indians in Council Elections

More than a decade back when I was working in India, in one of the offices I was allocated a seat on the same floor as the Vice President. Being close to him I did get to hear a lot of things he said.

He always used to mention that in corporate offices there are always 2 types of conversations – one is the coffee room discussions where you gossip and criticise whatever you think is bad in the company and the other is the meeting room conversations where you sit in with a cool mind and try to resolve issues and suggest improvements. He said, most of the time people resort to coffee room discussions which are pure banter and this conversation never reaches the meeting room where you could effectively make changes for the good of everyone in the company. This is one of the sanest advices that I have ever received.

Now apply this rule to what we do as a society, while discussing politics and how we want to see a better world and want to influence the political decisions to the benefit of our own community. Most of our conversation surrounding politics is actually banter which helps us connect to each other and also keeps conversation flowing, given that this is close to the hearts and minds of people of the Indian community. This also includes the talk of getting more political representation for our community.

While many of us fall in this group, there is a smarter group of people who decided to make a plunge in the recently held Council Elections and offered themselves as Change Agents, trying to change the course at the basic grass roots level.

A whole new breed of community people put their hand up for council elections. Suburbs like Holyroyd, Merrylands, Wentworthville, Mays Hill, Hornsby, Parramatta, Baulkham Hills and Blacktown witnessed a strong campaign by people of Indian subcontinent and they were able to make an impact. Not all of them won but all of them have collectively sent a strong voice to the mainstream party headquarters that Indian community has potential leadership candidates for the future.

The fund raisers organised by these candidates have elevated the level of debate in our community. No longer was it just the banal song and dance routine performance played in these functions. These fund raisers witnessed the presence of Federal Ministers, Federal MPs and State MPs and even party General Secretaries like Sam Dastayari. Their presence in local elections campaign and the fund raisers has enabled them to closely understand the needs and perceptions of the community.

The trend of seeing more Indian candidates in council elections is just a beginning and will inspire many more to come forward in future elections. One of the major reasons which mainstream parties give for not giving tickets to people from Indian background is that there are not many people at the grass roots level at the branches. Post council elections, this premise will become harder to justify.

While winning the elections is a goal, the mere participation of such a large number of candidates in the election process is a big win in itself for the community.

We congratulate the winners from the Indian community who won the elections – Susai Benjamin, Raj Datta, Gurdeep Singh and John Arkan. Our ex councillors Prabir Maitra and Dilip Chopra,who served the community well in their tenure also deserve a big thank you.

The result of this surge of participation of Indian community members would boost many other aspirants who harbour political ambitions. The next battle field is going to be the Federal and the State elections where we are likely to see more members of the Australian Indian community offering themselves as Independent candidates.

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