Reading Time: 8 minutesAustralia’s Indian community believes that India will opt for change in this year’s General Elections
The saffron wave sweeping across India has now well and truly spread to its communities in the diaspora. And with, perhaps, the same intensity.
In Australia’s Indian community, an online survey conducted by Indian Link has revealed overwhelming support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as opposed to the Congress Party that has been in power for nearly ten years.
Indian Link’s online Indian election survey was held between Thursday 9 April and Monday 12 April. 672 responses were received in this time period.
A whopping 73% of the respondents said they backed the BJP. The fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) snared a surprising 16% of the Australian-Indian vote, while the Congress Party managed only a poor 6%.
5% of the respondents felt that there will be a hung parliament with a BJP-led Coalition forming the next government.
The mood here, just like it is in India, is clear, it’s time for a change.
Sifting through the comments made by the respondents, some of them quite verbose, the growing dissatisfaction with the current government is all too clear. There is, for starters, a lack of faith in the leadership, with the Congress not being able to put up an able or willing leader (The young Gandhi scion is probably the least impressive of his illustrious family; and as for the current ‘accidental’ prime minister, the recent release of a controversial book by a former media adviser, has not exactly helped the cause). There is frustration also that India has not been able to rise up to the mark economically on the world stage, despite much promise only five or so years ago. As well, there is a fair bit of displeasure and disappointment on affairs closer to the aam aadmi’s heart, such as women’s safety and basic services.
But it is the lament about widespread corruption in contemporary Indian society that comes up repeatedly, almost as if people are sick and tired of a system that does not work unless bribes are paid; where there are too many politicians with a criminal past, and, where talented, younger and perhaps more idealistic politicians are not getting a chance to get ahead.
And yet, what is interesting is that though the alternative is clearly preferable, there is some ambiguity about the leadership role.
Regarding the issue of whether BJP leader Narendra Modi will be a good prime minister for India, nearly a third of the survey respondents responded negatively, basically disagreeing with his tilt towards communal politics. (The recent emergence of a heretofore unmentioned wife, has probably done a bit of damage too).
Looking at the other side of politics, responding to the issue of whether the Congress Party’s dependence on the Gandhis has limited its growth potential, it is clear from the responses that it is time for the 129-year-old party to finally rid itself of its Gandhi hang-up. A whopping 80% felt that the Gandhis are indeed an encumbrance. One respondent noted, “How could Sonia Gandhi be given so much power that the Prime Minister of India cannot lead the country? Rahul Gandhi has shown no reason why he should be Prime Minister of India… the slavery of the Congress Party to Sonia and Rahul is shameful to watch”.
And although to some extent, Modi has been able to reach out to people like Congress leaders haven’t, the analysis regarding leaders is much the same as it is in Australia or the US or indeed any other country; there is a vacuum of sorts in terms of inspiring leadership.
There also seems to be a feeling that the Congress Party has run out of ideas, with over 62% stating that BJP will be better for India’s economic development. In fact, the AAP won the confidence of 24% of those surveyed, with the trust in Congress trailing a lowly 14%. “I do not think the Congress party is good for anything. It is a shame as this was the party which brought economic liberalisation to India under Manmohan Singh in the 1990s,” said one comment.
Similar figures were reflected in the issue of which party will be better for Non Resident Indians (NRIs), with 55% supporting the BJP and 14% in favour of Congress. The AAP again overtook the Congress here, by securing 22% of the votes, while 9% were undecided.
Based on the NRIs’ robust stance on corruption and their strong desire for a clean-up, the AAP seems to have emerged as a beacon in this state of darkness. Responding to the question of whether Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP is a serious player in national politics or a mere sideshow, 58% expressed their solidarity with the party. Rejecting both the Congress and BJP parties, one respondent wrote in, “There are (some) fully corrupt politicians…, we need someone like Kejriwal, an aam aadmi like us. We should at least give him a chance to see what he will do for India”. In a similar vein, there was this, “The current political system in India is much polluted. I believe the person with the broom, that is Mr Kejriwal, will be able to clean up the rubbish but the janata need to wake up”.
Politics as a passion
A sizable number of respondents of the Indian Link survey (55%), were long-term residents of Australia. This shows that wherever they may go, Indians continue to be passionately involved in the political affairs of their home country. They do genuinely want to be able to have a say; an overwhelming 82% of the respondents claimed they would like a chance to be able to vote in the current elections.
What was also remarkable to note was that there is a growing desire to change the 5-year election cycle. Nearly 50% of those surveyed wanted the election cycle to be shortened from 5 years to 4 or 3, whereas 46% were ok with retaining the current system. 4% were in agreement to give the politicians more than 5 years.
A good number of comments also suggested that the system needs to change; perhaps move to an American-style presidential system, or take ideas from the Australian system. “The Australian constitution for instance states that it adheres to the Judeo-Christian system but it is still a secular country”. Or again, “Alliances between the parties should be declared before the elections, not after the results are announced” were some of these comments. NRIs continue to be political beings wherever they go, learning from the system of their adopted country, and trying to find ways to suggest adaptations to their own system. This tendency should be further encouraged: both counties that enjoy our allegiance can be the benefactors of such avid political behaviour.
Yet, a surprising section of respondents said the system is fine, just not implemented properly. It seems as though they do have faith in our founding fathers’ ideals, even though things may have gone off-track somewhat. Is this the trickle effect of Kejriwal – that if someone genuinely wants to make a real difference, it is indeed possible? Kudos to AAP for rekindling that sentiment, even if they faltered at the implementation stage.
The passion for politics, amongst Australia’s Indian community is clear from the comments and the keen observations. Corruption and poor leadership, in their opinion, are leading the country astray and their desire to see a change in government is clear from their strong endorsement of the Narendra Modi-led BJP. Whether this turns into reality, will become clear after 16 May. But whether they are voting in the BJP, or they are voting for change, will only become clear a little while later.
What you said
“Corruption and increasing population are two major issues, and the general public needs to look at ways of controlling them. Peoples mindsets regarding women need to be changed. We need to give back more to society and make it sustainable and a healthier place to live”.
“Perhaps we should try the American style where people vote for a president rather than so many political parties. This would bring in much more stability and [a better chance of attaining] absolute majority”.
“Political leaders with a criminal record should be banned from politics and those who are alleged to be involved in scams should be suspended till the case is resolved. The central government should be formed by a strong national party with a clear mindset for economic, cultural, social and educational development and growth… a clear guiding plan for better governance and growth. Corruption and social crimes against women are huge social evils and the new government must enact strong laws to overcome these challenges. Problems of poverty and unemployment can be taken care of by promoting skill-based education and in turn promoting small businesses with proper support and funding. Once a party forms a government it should focus on the development of the country rather than focusing on the sustenance of the government itself. The ruling party must not submit to the pressure of its unfaithful allies when the future for the nation is at stake. I hope India finally gets a government which is truly ‘By the People, Of the People and For the People,’” Jai Hind.
“No [current] political party is worthy of being in power. Things will not change till the greed for money is not the focal point for the politicians themselves. They need to think of what India could be if governed well”.
“There is a need to bring in more youth, or leaders without a criminal history – even Australia was not spared by the Obeids”.
“With [the] introduction of AAP at the national level, they would be [a] catalyst for change. They have principles as well as courage”.
“Narendra Modi should win this election. I have lived in Ahmedabad and the growth and development there has been outstanding. India needs a strong PM now and no corrupt politicians”.
“It’s a very fluid situation. Regional parties are not reliable and national parties are not in a position to get even a simple majority. The UPA/NDA experience is not good for India’s stability. India needs a strong man like Sardar Patel and in this election, the electorate see such an ironman in Narendra Modi”.
“I think the entry of AAP in the Indian political scenario will have a very positive effect on the overall politics of India and will definitely force other political parties to change their traditional methods of operation”.
“Indians visiting abroad on tourist visas should also be allowed to vote through local consulates”.
“Reservations and communal classification for political gains is killing the country. There should be one country and one common rule for all”.
“I think for the first time in India we have a true, strong and assertive nationalist leader representing a major national party (BJP). I think the time has come for Indians to back the leader who can win back our pride in the world as one of the oldest and still relevant civilisations. Hopefully this will drive all parties to become nationalist in their approach and put the country first rather than their own party and dynasty. It is tragic to see an incompetent unworthy person become leader of the Congress Party. I sincerely hope this election will decimate Congress to the extent that they will reinvent themselves by letting go of the dynastic shackles and embrace an inclusive culture. It is sad to see good leaders like Sachin Pilot, but other youth leaders cannot even come close to becoming the leaders of their party. The best performance by the Congress in recent times was when they had P V Narasimha Rao as their leader and Prime Minister. This says a lot about what this party can achieve when they are freed from dynastic pressures”.
“Congress Party is very corrupt and this needs to change. Narendra Modi has led a non-corrupt government for last 6-7 years. He is a strong and passionate leader and will definitely work very hard for India and Indians”.
“India needs a strong leader who can take the country forward and also enthuse its citizens to live for the country. Under Congress rule, there has been a fracture of the society with every group thriving to create its own identity under the premise of language, religion, caste. I hope Narendra Modi’s leadership with the policies of BJP will take the country forward”.
“The system is dysfunctional – it needs an overhaul and a strong courageous honest leader. Not sure if that will happen in the near future but Indians in India seem to be awakening. Satyamev Jayate”.
“India should openly have Hindu Political Parties as that’s the heritage of India and that’s a fact. If a party is Hindu it doesn’t mean it’s communal. The Australian citizenship test also states that Australia has a Judaeo-Christian heritage, and many Australians describe themselves as Christians. Australia has public holidays on Christian days such as Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. However, the government in Australia is secular. This means that there is no official national religion. (Source). Australia talks about its heritage being Judaeo-Christian even when that was not the heritage of the natives, whereas India is the mother of Hinduism”.