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Salt On Wounds? Kiwi-Indians Emerge As Top 2 Poll Spenders

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon with Siva Kilari during the Election 2023 campaign (Supplied photo).

Two Kiwi-Indians have topped the list of candidates who broke the bank to win votes not just for themselves but also the party they represented in Election 2023.

The six-digit election spend by both Siva Kilari and Mahesh Muralidhar, both from the National Party, was still not enough to take them to Parliament in an election that poured cold water over hopes of better Kiwi-Indian representation in policymaking.

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Siva Kilari, who contested from the South Auckland electorate of Manurewa, raised $110,483, new Electoral Commission data shows. He spent $21,015 on his campaign and channeled the remainder to boost the National Party’s pitch. 

His single biggest donation came from Flat Bush-based Moggens NZ, amounting to $10,750. Five others donated upwards of $5,000 each, while many others pooled in smaller amounts. Many of these were from South Auckland. 

Siva lost the electorate vote, and having placed a relatively low 30 on the party’s list, he failed to become MP. To his credit, the businessman won more electorate votes than what the party could garner in Manurewa. 

A member of Siva’s team told The Indian Weekender, “While he did not secure a seat in Parliament, his fundraising milestone and the strategic allocation of those funds to support his party's broader objectives demonstrate a pragmatic approach to political engagement.

“It's a narrative that resonates with the Indian community's ethos of collective progress and mutual support, emphasising the importance of participation in the democratic process.”

Mahesh Muralidhar came second on the high rollers list, with $109,500 in donations, although most of that came from the National Party. Here in Auckland Central, the party pushed hard to dislodge incumbent Chlöe Swarbrick but the Green Party star clung on to her seat. 

The Kiwi-Indian tech entrepreneur won nearly 38 per cent of the candidate vote, where his party garnered 34 per cent of the party vote. Placed further down on the party list, Mahesh also failed to make it to Parliament. 

Election 2023 will go down in New Zealand’s electoral history as one that perhaps offered the greatest hope for more Kiwi-Indian representation in Parliament, and yet left the diaspora high and dry.

More than a dozen candidates of Indian origin were in the fray but only two—Labour’s Priyanca Radhakrishnan and ACT’s Parmjeet Parmar—made it to Parliament, both from the list. 

Former minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan lost her Maungakiekie seat to National’s Greg Flemming. But if it is any compensation, she did win 35 per cent of the candidate vote when her party could muster only 27 per cent in the electorate. Her plum list placing, of course, got her to Parliament a third time on the trot.

The only two Kiwi-Indians who ever came close to winning were Mahesh Muralidhar and Ankit Bansal. Mahesh trailed Chloe Swarbrick till the very end, falling short by just 2,074 candidate votes, while Ankit lost by 2,733 votes.

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