Melbourne: With Indians emerging as one of the fastest growing communities in Victoria, the local government elections for the first time will see a big contingent of over 40 Indians entering the poll fray.
According to the Victorian Election Commission website, 41 Indians and some 10 with India lineage are contesting for the local government polls across the state from 77 council seats on October 26 in what is being dubbed as a positive change in Australian elections.
"The real thing is for the first time Indians are in the Council polls in a big way and this shows their rising clout in Australia," said Neeraj Nanda, a Melbourne-based community leader who runs a newspaper for Indian community called `South Asian Times`.
For many of the candidates, local politics is a new area they are venturing and they may not be able to secure a seat.
However, such a big representation from the community is being seen as a positive step, Nanda said.
Echoing similar views, Intaj Khan, a contestant from Whyndam Council in west of Melbourne, said, "It seems there are more Indian candidates than Chinese for this year`s state local government elections. This is something worth notable."
Khan, who runs a vocational college and a private school here, said if he gets elected he would try to work for good ties between Australia and India.
In Victoria, a council is a democratically elected body on a four-year term and are generally regarded as closest to the people.
It exercises a wide range of government functions and powers for the "peace, order and good government" of its municipal district. Each council in Victoria has between 5 and 12 elected councillors.
The elected council makes decisions in the interests of their community, plus the administrative organisation that delivers services and ensures that council decisions are implemented.
"There is a sudden interest in local politics here amongst growing Indian community and we have been stressing the community to come forward and represent ourselves into this area as well," said Manoj Kumar, an active Labor Party member who has recently been appointed as an inaugural member in "Subcontinent Ministerial Consultative Committee" by the federal government.
"We (Indians) are everywhere today working from hospitals to IT companies to supermarkets, so why not politics. Indians need to take bigger role in Australian culture and set up and the time is right," he said.
However, not many Indians have been able to strike it big
in politics here despite their long associations with political parties.
Till now there has been only one political appointment in Victoria, that of Liberal Party supporter Nitin Gupta, who is currently an advisor at the state Premier Ted Ballieu`s office and to the multicultural minister.
Very few Indians have been able to secure a council seat with the exception of Tim Lawrence Singh, who was councillor during 1996 and 2008.
And although chances are bright for some of the Indians this time, one can never predict until the results are out.
For candidates like Rima Das, Anamika, Parameswaran Menon, Gautam Gupta, Sukhdip Singh, Randip Singh, Nirmaljit Singh, Gursharan Mann, Moti Visa, Raj Dudeja, the objective is to secure a council seat and work for the local concerns that benefit both communities - Australian and Indian.
"If any Indian manages to win a seat as a councillor, it would actually show a true multiculturalism in Melbourne," according to Moti Visa, a community leader who is contesting as an independent candidate from Melbourne city. He wants to focus on safety and security issues should he win.
Seeking support for herself, Anamika in her nomination said, "Being a mother of a four-year old, an entrepreneur, a community leader and a long term resident in Mulgrave, I have the knowledge and capacity to listen to the community`s concerns and to serve them in a responsible and professional manner. I am committed to ensuring a better lifestyle for all residents by connecting people and addressing social isolation."
"Indians are fastest growing community and the best way to assimilate and intermingle into Australian culture is to have more and more Indian faces to take up such leadership roles and create an understanding of Indian culture at the grass root level through these local council jobs," Vasan Srinivasan, President of Federation of Indian Association of Victoria.