The foregoing week witnessed a uniquely coincident wooing of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand by political leaders of two major Parties from India – Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC) – in the lead up to the next parliamentary elections in 2019.
First, there was Congress MP, Dr Shashi Tharoor, who was in town for a public speaking engagement in Auckland writer’s festival, meeting with the members of Indian Overseas Congress.
Later, there was Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs, Jaswantsinh Bhabhor, who was in Auckland en-route to Samoa, meeting with representatives of the Overseas Friends of BJP.
It’s rare that two political heavyweights from India are simultaneously in the country reaching out for wider public attention.
Indeed, both leaders were heavyweight.
While Jaswantsinh Bhabhor carried the insignia of being a Union Minister of State in the Government of India and consequently reflecting the aura that comes naturally from being in power, more so in that part of the world.
Dr Tharoor, on other hand, despite being a seemingly ordinary MP from Opposition, has his own star power, developed over the years by being a passionate advocate of India’s soft power, and lately as someone who is trying to build a new intellectual narrative for the Congress Party, which is enough to match any fanfare that comes naturally with being in power and in government.
There was enough on the plate for supporters of both the leaders to cheer about, during their respective visits and subsequent interactions with the members of the community.
Although there is nothing unprecedented about such interactions between visiting political leaders and members of the community and their respective supporters, however, given what is at stake in the elections of 2019, and how interest in diaspora has increased globally, it can be safely asserted that good times are ahead for the Indian diaspora.
For long, diasporic communities have lived in complete isolation, in both, the countries where they reside now, and the countries from where they have emanated.
Indeed, there is nothing better for diaspora than being valued in their home country.
The 2019 elections are going to be momentous for various reasons.
Either the Prime Minister Modi-led BJP’s juggernaut will continue to roll, decimating the Congress – the country’s grand old political party – in the process, and writing a new episode in India’s already chequered history.
Yes – India’s history has been chequered, for instance, just in the span of two hundred years of British colonial rule transformed a thriving economy, which accounted for 27 per cent of global GDP to an acutely poor state, which barely accounted for mere 3 per cent of the global output.
The electoral outcome of 2019 could again add some variety to this already variegated process of history-making of India, for the demise of India’s oldest political party, if that happens, would be a crucial moment.
Similarly, if the Modi-led BJP juggernaut comes to a halt, which many among opposition and intelligentsia, claiming to be the spokesperson of the vast silent majority in India, sincerely hopes, then also it will be a defining moment for India.
For, BJP has to still convince voters that they have got something substantially different, and liberating, other than Modi’s personal charisma, in comparison to what Congress Party and other regional parties which flourished under its broad ideological spectrum, has traditionally offered the Indian voters, to justify their value-proposition.
The contest of 2019 would undoubtedly be crucial, and the role of diasporic communities in shaping the views and opinions of voters back in India would be important.
For, the role of family and kinship in shaping choices of the Indian voters is widely acknowledged, and in present times, diasporic communities are being believed to exercise some degree of influence on voters back home.
In that respect, the increasing importance of Indian diaspora of New Zealand, a seemingly small country in the South Pacific, which lately has found itself struggling to retain its place in the world map, is something worth appreciating and celebrating.
The fact that the Indian diaspora of New Zealand being wooed and that too energetically, by the political leaders from India, is something to relish and cheer.
It is also a reminder of the fact that with great power comes great responsibility, therefore if diasporas are being wooed increasingly in the lead up to the 2019 elections, then there is a responsibility on them to form a rational and not just emotional opinion.