Now that Todd Muller has successfully rolled over the previous incumbent Simon Bridges as the new National Party, it's time to analyse what does it augurs for the Kiwi-Indian community and the wider ethnic communities.
Will the Kiwi-Indian community have the same connection that it has felt in the recent past with the National Party?
Or will there be a radical departure or a completely new start altogether?
While we indulge ourselves in exploring the future of the possible-connect between the National Party and the Kiwi-Indian community, there is no intention to suggest that the community was overwhelmingly inclined towards this Party, as many commentators freely comment about other ethnic communities and the National Party.
To be clear, those in the community who have been in this country for many decades and generations, and have found themselves amused with the sudden bump in the size and the political aspirations of their own Kiwi-Indian community, just in the last decade, would vouch that traditionally the community has found better acceptance and inclusion in the Labour Party.
The Labour Party’s traditional affinity towards the working class and classical-multiculturalism had more takers within the Kiwi-Indian community, which was most decisively visible during their heydays under the then Prime Minister Helen Clark.
However, that was long back then - till the late nineties and early twenty-first century - but as the socio-economic and technological changes unleashed in early nineties after the end of the Cold war and an unbridled march of liberalisation and globalisation, many things changed, including the very composition of our societies and the nation
Since then not only has New Zealand as a nation has become more multicultural and embracing ethnic diversity but also our political processes and institutions have become more inclusive and welcoming for our ethnic communities.
Complementing the changes in the composition of NZ as a nation, the preceding decade has also seen a manifold increase in the size, and the political aspirations of the Kiwi-Indian community.
It was during the time of these momentous changes, and the emergence of Sir John Key - the original effusive-politician of smiles and warm handshakes, before being lately replaced by our own Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - that the Kiwi-Indian community took a radical leap towards the National Party.
The fact that Sir John Key led National Party had then elevated the first India-born Kiwi-Indian as the member of the parliament (Kanwaljeet Singh Bakshi), along with Sir John Key’s effusive personality had swung the political leanings of a majority in the community.
However, as stated above - that was then - and now a predominant segment within the Kiwi-Indian community like the rest of New Zealanders seems to adore Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and might be happy to take their votes for her Labour Party.
We like it or not, but that’s how many commentators would agree, is how our Kiwi-Indian community’s tete-e-tete with NZ politics has been.
Regardless, it was under Sir John Key’s leadership of the National Party that the Kiwi-Indian community had forged their connection with the Party, with currently two sitting MPs - a privilege not many other ethnic communities can boast of in recent times.
Since then the community has largely remained connected with the National Party simply because of a follow-up effect after Sir John Key’s leadership.
Both of his successors - Sir Bill English and the now removed Simon Bridges inherited the advantage of the momentum from Sir John Key days, with a special mention of Simon Bridges who made some incredible efforts in recent times to continue to forge the ties with the Kiwi-Indian community.
Simon made himself readily available within the community, turning up regularly in community’s premier events and occasions, and most importantly did not shy away from fronting up with the community on the occasion of Auckland Diwali Festival 2018, just after few days of leaking of former National MP Jamie Lee Ross where the infamous comment “two Chinese are better than two Indians” was made within a private conversation, caused a huge uproar.
The manner in which Simon had candidly fronted up at the Indian community’s biggest public event but also genuinely apologised for a comment that was falsely attributed to him ensured that his party was not punished with noticeable wrath of the Kiwi-Indian community.
He continued to be seen and welcomed till very lately before the Covid-19 related lockdown changed everything - including his own immediate future as the leader of the National Party.
This has indeed changed with the anointing of Todd Muller as the new Party Leader who comes with a background of managing agri-businesses and many commentators attribute him representing the rural and countryside face of New Zealand.
For uninitiated, the National Party has long taken pride in being a party for rural agricultural communities with relatively only recent representation of urban-liberal city dwellers’ interests.
To make it clear, Todd Muller himself has on record said in his first official press release soon after winning the leadership challenge today, “National has always been a coalition of city and country, business and community, conservatives and liberals – National is the party for all New Zealanders.”
However, regardless of that pre-calibrated press release, it will be interesting to see how Tod Muller stamps his vision on the Party’s immediate trajectory - and in that regard connection with ethnic communities, Kiwi-Indian community, in particular, be of much interest.
In his endeavour to turn around National Party’s immediate fortune, Mr Muller cannot afford to ignore 5.1 per cent Kiwi-Indian votes, which when taken into account along with the Kiwi-Chinese and other prominent ethnic communities will form a whopping 12-15 per cent vote share.
In the coming days and months, while the nation will wait to hear and see the alternative plan Mr Muller presents to the nation, it would be interesting to observe how he builds connections with the Kiwi-Indian community and other ethnic communities.
The Indian Weekender wishes him good luck in this endeavour and looks forward to engaging with him soon for the community's interests.