Indian Member of Parliament Kanwaljit Bakshi’s defence of his beleaguered leader Simon Bridges on his clear-as-daylight acquiescence to Jami-Lee Ross’ “Two Chinese would be more valuable than two Indians, I have to say” comment is, to say the least, abject.
Bakshi told media that his leader had been set up. So, was Bridges also set up for the other contentious things he said that has left him “a dead man walking” in Winston Peters’ words – like saying a colleague was “effing useless” and voicing his worry about the fallout after getting ethnic MPs to replace some of the existing ones?
Blaming it all on Ross is fine but as a representative of Kiwi Indians, his constituents would have expected more from Bakshi than this pathetic fig leaf of a defence of his leader. For the question is not of Ross saying what he said. It is rather of Bridges’ acquiescence to what was said and his continuing the conversation about the “value” of ethnic MPs and their numbers and issues around accommodating more of them.
This was an opportunity for Bakshi to dispel the Indian community’s growing disappointment with the invisibility and inaudibility of Indian-origin MPs outside of Indian community news media – especially in parliament and mainstream national affairs.
It is unfortunate that Bakshi and his colleague ParmjeetParmar, the other Indian-origin National MP, have failed to appropriately respond to the widespread anguish in their constituents – anguish that led even Sanjiv Kohli, the Indian High Commissioner in New Zealand, to uncharacteristically voice concern.
Mr Kohli tweeted, “Shocking attitude. Highly inconsistent with NZ values. Hopefully an aberration. India and Indians respect and admire this country and its people. Not everybody is for sale. Running a country is different from managing David Jones."
Just as two Chinese are more valuable than two Indians, it appears that for the two Indian MPs, kowtowing to the party line – no matter how hopelessly exposed – and protecting a leader who is clearly on a very slippery slope is more valuable than seeking redress to the feeling of hurt that is so widespread among their constituents.
However, Bakshi appears seized of the hurt among the Kiwi Indian diaspora, though there’s not a peep from his other parliamentary colleague.
Unintended pun or not, Bakshi was quoted in the media saying: "Now I just have to keep working to ensure that the bridge that was built continues to remain there."
Much water will have to flow under that tottering bridge before Kiwi Indians stop feeling so let down by their representatives.
But then, as Winston Peters pointed out, the bridges are quite burned.
The views expressed above are the author's only and does not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Weekender.