New Zealand is well entrenched into election fever right now with debates taking centre stage of the country’s political life.
Almost every second day there is an election debate somewhere in our proximity and almost every time served live on television, radio and Facebook.
Undoubtedly, the leader’s debate between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition continues to attract more attention than others and for obvious reasons.
The nation collectively exhilarates, even if momentarily, after every round of such debates guessing who the winner was and by what margin.
The actual debates are being followed by social media frenzy, next day lunch time gossips at work place, at bars over a drink and even few more days, for the more enthusiastic politics watchers among us, till the next debate hits on them.
To many Kiwi-Indians, who still carry some memories from their old life from India – a place that many still call as their original home – this fervour may remind about their own insatiable appetite for discussing heroics of the Indian cricket team.
Indians have a huge appetite for following heroics of Indian cricket team live in the stadium, then watching on television, repeat telecasts and then reading again and again in newspapers and social media.
This is separate from the lively and often animated discussions on the public transport on their way to work and back to homes.
Surely, there is a huge and much-cherished appetite for cricket among the broader Indian community.
Coming back to elections, these debates are the current toast of the nation, and Kiwi-Indian community is no different except the fact that they might find less “beef or meat” as they say here in New Zealand to remain glued for long to such debates.
For some observers beyond our communities, laying out such an expectation that “what’s in it for migrant communities,” it might be a little bit boisterous, if not outrageous.
However, there is no escaping from the fact that such expectations are inevitable and should be welcomed rather than viewed with any aspersions.
Migrant communities and Kiwi-Indian community, in particular, have an equal stake, if not more than others in this country’s politics.
They need to participate in the political process of the country, especially in shaping the narrative about immigration, which has a huge potential to affect their day to day experience in their lives in this country.
The current narrative on immigration propelled by both major parties – National and Labour Party is not very helpful.
While Labour Party is calling for radical chopping of numbers of immigrant workers on the pretext of catching up on infrastructural woes of Auckland, and this is despite some whopping shortage of skilled labours across all major industries around the country.
The National Party though boasting of being the only party in favour of keeping immigration open is, however, guilty of perpetuating, or allowing to perpetuate, a negative stereotype that most of the immigrants arriving in this country are low-skilled and of less value, who are willing to work on low-wages to remain in this country.
There is no denial of the fact that there are, and there would be, many vulnerable migrant workers who would submit themselves to be exploited by shoddy employers to remain in this country.
But not everyone in the migrant community, in fact, an overwhelming majority, do not subscribe to the current perception where they are seen being conveniently clubbed as low-skilled workers who are playing an insignificant role in New Zealand economy and society.
This narrative has to change, and for that to happen, it is critical that migrant communities engage proactively in the electoral process of the country.
Towards that goal, leaders debate are a good starting point for the community to get involved in the election process and ask the question “what’s in it for me?”