Lone Indian on either side of political divide

If it were not for the Rugby World Cup (which kicked off at Eden Park on September 9), media columns and radio talkback shows would have been awash with the Candidate List of the National Party released on September 4.

The List sprung a number of surprises, elating some and disappointing some, but reflecting overall the confidence and optimism with which National would approach the general election on November 26.

The elevation of Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi by three places (from 38 in 2008 to 35 now) indicated the high degree of acceptance and appreciation that he enjoys among the echelons of his Party in general and confidence reposed in him by Prime Minister John Key in particular.

Although he would not be able to win the electoral seat in Manukau East (which belongs to Labour’s Ross Robertson), he is in a ‘winnable slot,’ with National expected to win at least 58 seats in the next Parliament, if the current polling rates are any indication.

Days before the announcement of the List, speculation was rife that National may include another candidate of Indian origin in its 2011 List. A number of names were floated at social gatherings but the Party hierarchy is believed to have weighed all options before concluding that one candidate would suffice.

Rightly so, because the Indian community in New Zealand is yet to mature in politics and come to terms with the way it works in this country and not elsewhere. Moneybags may pull their punches during election campaigns but the Party leadership knows the perils of such association.

Having passed the acid test of loyalty, allegiance, consistency and performance, Mr Bakshi now carries the additional responsibility of improving his ratings over the next three years. While he should be able to shoulder additional tasks with greater ease and comfort, his ability to stand up to mounting challenges would determine his future in the Party and perhaps the Beehive.

While the first three years provided the learning curve, the ensuing term would evaluate his ability to represent communities from the Indian Sub-Continent and other largely ignored minority groups from Asia, especially the Middle East.

He should also constantly remind himself of the fact that he owes fealty to all New Zealanders and not just a community grouping.

With the retirement of Dr Ashraf Choudhry from politics, Dr Rajen Prasad will be the lone candidate from the Indian Sub-Continent to represent the communities on behalf of the Labour Party in the ensuing Parliament.

With his four decades of experience in public life, which has seen him in such critical areas as education, human rights and promotion of family values, he brings with him social and intellectual acumen rarely seen among politicians here and elsewhere.

The significance of being a politician is such that one does not have to be in a ruling party to either make a difference or be an effective public servant. Our assessment sheet places Dr Prasad high among performers in Parliament, social and community platforms and most importantly, in the hearts of people.

But people do not live on aspirations alone. They need opportunities to grow, give vent to their thoughts and talent and achieve their objectives.

It is time the Labour Party accorded larger responsibilities to a lawmaker who has proved his mettle on more than one occasion.


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