What drives the diaspora’s interest in Indian elections? Is it a sense of vicarious patriotism driven by their growing fondness for the mother nation from a distance? Or is it a case of real interest and less selfless factors at play, stirring up their emotions and interest in India’s election?
While the growing tendency of Indian political parties in wooing global diaspora has received significant academic and media attention, the other-way-round of this ever increasing mutual bonhomie, that is, what drives the diaspora to care about Indian politics has received relatively less attention?
The fact that the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken diaspora-wooing to the next level, and main the opposition Indian National Congress Party is desperately trying to recover lost ground are mostly well-known in the public discourse.
However, lesser light has been thrown on what it is that drives the diaspora to respond positively to the outreach by Indian political parties.
Why do people of Indian origin who have relinquished Indian citizenship and acquired foreign nationality still have such an abiding interest in the politics of the country of their origin?
The global Indian diaspora’s interest in the politics of India has grown manifold in the last few years, and the Kiwi-Indian diaspora is no exception.
It is important to note that diaspora’s active interest in Indian politics is a huge investment of their time, money and emotions.
In fact, the emotional investment quotient has skyrocketed with the growth of social media platforms, which has emerged as the new frontiers where contestation of ideas and the struggle for gaining the attention of otherwise distracted voters, takes place. The diaspora’s engagement in the ongoing contestation of ideas on social media platforms has gained new heights since the last general elections in India.
What explains the diaspora’s increasing interest in politics of India?
In this regard, the opinions are varied, and largely determined by several factors, including the diaspora’s own migration-history and time span of leaving Indian shores.
The first explanation for this large investment of time, money and emotions is altruistic patriotism – the desire to selflessly see one’s home nation prosper. The diasporic communities tend to become more patriotic than when they were back in India purely because of the reason that distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Sushrut Srivastava, an IT analyst who first lived in Australia before coming to New Zealand shared his experience with The Indian Weekender saying, “When I first moved to Australia about a decade ago I found myself plunged into strange emotions of excessive love and fondness of everything related to India.
“In fact, I kind of lost my aversion to so many issues that had previously frustrated me while I was in India like traffic chaos, corruption, etc and I became overwhelmed with emotions of fondness for everything there,” Mr Srivastava said.
Vipin Handa, who has lived in the country for almost two decades setting up multiple businesses, shared similar sentiments saying, “Over a period of time I have found myself becoming more considerate toward the struggles of successive Indian governments in overcoming mammoth challenges of lifting a vast humanity out of poverty and improving their quality of lives.”
A lot of NRIs who are flush with newfound wealth in their new country of residence find themselves becoming sentimental about the plight of their fellow-ethnic communities back in India, and strive to contribute in their well-being in one way or the other, and politics is an important medium of achieving those lofty goals.
Similarly, for a large section of the diaspora who have left Indian shores for many generations and have not much active roots still alive in India are driven more by a simple altruistic desire of seeing India prosper and growing profile internationally.
Amarinder Singh – a fifth-generation Kiwi-Indian farmer from Bombay Hills in the south of Auckland – told The Indian Weekender, “Although we have not much family connection back in India, I am interested to see India grow and prosper and would vouch for political parties who can deliver what they promise.”
But not everyone is driven by selfless altruism, and many have real interests in the politics of India.
Unlike the emigrants of the late twentieth century, the new generation of recent migrants who have left Indian shores in the past 20-30 years lives overseas with a dream of being able to return home in the future, or at least to spend a large part of their time in India.
They see politics of India immensely essential to shape the future of India where they can eventually return and live peacefully in some distant future.
These diasporic communities become equally motivated by promises of rapid economic development and apparent threats of religious polarisation back in India, that could potentially affect their long-term hope of returning again and living peacefully in India.
Their interest in politics of India is undoubtedly more mundane and real rather than just purely noble and altruistic.
It would be interesting to see how successive governments would like to tap this growing interest of diasporic communities in the politics of India.
However, the above analysis definitely suggests that the diaspora’s fondness for Indian politics is not purely altruistic and driven by real self-interest as well, thereby signalling those soon governments would start experiencing a new set of expectations, apart from their domestic constituencies.