Sameer Pandey backstabbed in race for Parramatta mayor

As the Indian Australian community reels in shock at Sameer Pandey’s removal, PAWAN LUTHRA brings us the back story on recent events at Parramatta Council.

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Multiple independent sources have confirmed to Indian Link the existence of a document signed by all Labor Parramatta councillors on how the position of mayor would change hands during the three years Labor was in majority at the council.

The document signed in January 2022 spells out that Councillor Donna Davis would take on the mayoral role initially, and then step aside in September 2023 and allow for Councillor Sameer Pandey to be elected unopposed as mayor for the final year before Council elections are held again.

While the first part of the agreement was implemented, four of the seven Councillors broke the agreement and voted against Pandey in the election held on Monday this week.

Sameer Pandey with NSW Premier Chris Minns

It is understood that the hierarchy of the Australian Labor Party is deeply shocked at this betrayal by four of their members, and messages of support have been pouring in for Sameer Pandey from all levels of the Labor Party – both Federal and State.

It is understood also that after the Council elections in 2022, Pandey had significant support to win the mayoral position.

However, the Labor Party, keen to have Donna Davis contest the next Parramatta state seat against the incumbent MP Geoff Lee, sought to build up her profile by positioning her for mayor.

According to sources in the know, Pandey was advised not to contest for the mayoral post in 2022, even though he had the numbers. The plan instead, was for Pandey to take over after Davis steps down in September 2023.

Following her election as Member for Parramatta in the March 2023 State elections, according to a report in the SMH, Davis initially wanted to stay on as Lord Mayor as well, holding both roles concurrently. Under pressure from the Council though, she decided to step down from the role of mayor but continue as councillor.

Upon Donna Davis’ resignation, Pandey was elected Mayor in May 2023, aware that he would be recontesting in September. Based on the initial agreement, those in the know assumed this would be a formality.

Council is usually elected for a term of 4 years. Due to COVID however, the term of the previous council was extended by a year and by default, the term of the current council was cut short by a year, becoming a 3-year term.

Sameer Pandey with MP Michelle Rowland and Premier Chris Minns

Council rules stipulate that the Council hold elections for mayor every two years – in the COVID shortened term, these were to be held in September 2023.

Pandey was to be elected unopposed.

But it appears concerns grew in some sections of the council around Pandey’s upward trajectory, given his growing popularity and work ethic, and possible candidature at the next state elections in 2026.

In what is seen as a move to clip his wings, four Labor Councillors opposed his mayoral nomination and went back on their earlier signed agreement.

Parramatta State MP Donna Davis, who as a Councillor was allowed the first go as Parramatta mayor, seems to have sided with Pierre Esber, Cameron Maclean and Patricia Prociv, to deny Pandey his chance to continue as Mayor.

With this change of support from his own caucus, Pandey could but watch from the sidelines as Pierre Esber then got elected as the new Parramatta Mayor, 9 votes to 6.

The move has shocked the Indian Australian community: Sameer Pandey, a much-loved public figure, is held in high esteem and is the poster boy for many young aspiring politicians from the community.

Sameer Pandey has enjoyed great community support

This axing of Pandey has been described by a senior Labor Parramatta member in the SMH as “… a senseless act with no political outcome that is beneficial for the Labor Party.”

Another Councillor, asking to remain anonymous, told Indian Link, “Changing mayors in four months is not going to be a good look for the Council.

Sameer did a great job; I have much respect for the man.”

Pandey was a hugely popular mayor, not only with the Indian Australian community in Parramatta which constitutes over 11.4% of the local population but also by many others. He was admired for his zeal and youthful energy, often seen at local Parramatta programmes and a regular guest in media, talking about his vision for Parramatta and the various projects in the works. His influence and power as Parramatta mayor would have only grown with the passage of time.

David Borger, Executive Director at Business Western Sydney believes Sameer Pandey has done a good job in the short time he was mayor.

Dr Andrew Charlton, Federal Member for Parramatta feels that Parramatta has lost a very good man who works very hard. “He was a terrific mayor and has a big future in the Labor party and I am confident that future opportunities will come to him,” Charlton told Indian Link.

Sameer Pandey
Sameer Pandey at the launch of Andrew Charlton’s book ‘Australia’s Pivot to India’

Blacktown Councillor Moninder Singh is also confident that Pandey has a bright future. “He is a young politician and has many years ahead of him. I am confident that he will do his local community proud,” Singh told Indian Link.

There are many who would agree.

READ ALSO: Sameer Pandey is the new Lord Mayor of Parramatta

Pawan Luthra
Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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