Do we vote for candidates who are ethnically similar to us?

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Pradip Rodrigues

In 1999, the BBC ran an BBC News Online poll for the millennium, and the result shocked Britain when Bollywood filmstar Amitabh Bachchan was chosen as the greatest star of stage or screen ever to walk the face of this planet, he was even more popular than Sir Laurence Olivier other world renowned actors, the only problem was that few Britons had even heard about the Bollywood icon. The results of that poll must even have Amitabh Bachchan, actually he must have been slightly embarrassed because it was clear that the large South Asian diaspora enthusiastically chose him over any other great legends. Bachchan won by a ridiculously large landslide that baffled Britons who scrambled to find out more about the Bollywood icon.

It may have led many to conclude privately but never publicly that South Asian immigrants cannot be honest and objective when it comes to choosing the best actors or political leaders. If there is South Asian candidate competing against other races, especially whites, South Asian voters tend to feel it is their obligation to put ethnicity before objectivity.

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Last year when then NDP leadership hopeful Jagmeet Singh’s campaign announced it had signed up an astounding 47,000 new members in a relatively short period of time, rival Charlie Angus’ campaign cried foul and were skeptical about those numbers. Within the South Asian diaspora there was aggressive campaign to sign up NDP members and many signed up not because they had a sudden new found affinity for the NDP and were sold on their left-leaning ideology, many did it to support Singh’s candidacy. Many of these new members had in previous elections voted Liberal or Conservative depending on the candidates in the running and are known to tell all candidates from all parties in the running that they would vote for them. regardless of their platforms. Voter turnout among South Asians is notably high which enables candidates that have the backing of the community a high chance of success. This has not gone unnoticed by mainstream political parties who are all guilty of playing what is now commonly referred to as vote-bank politics.

In ridings across Canada that have a sizeable South Asian population, candidates that have their support are guaranteed victory so much so that Canadian politics has irreversible changed and at times reminds homesick immigrants of the way things were ‘back home’.

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There is numerous instances of the nomination process being compromised and the players are often South Asians. This is just an observation but a large number of South Asians in politics tend to be first generation or children of politically active husbands or fathers who are community leaders.

A politician’s Indian travel itinerary

Every federal and provincial Canadian politician visiting India makes it a point to visit the Golden Temple, I can’t recall any Canadian politicians going out of his or her way to visit a Buddhist place of worship or a Christian church in India because they respect the people of the country, rather their decision to visit specific places is done so depending on the immigrants from those religious backgrounds living in Canada. Maybe I am wrong, but if Bengali were the largest and most politically active South Asians in Canada, a visit to the Indian Museum in Kolkata which is the largest and oldest museum in India and would be very familiar with Durga Puja. They would even pose standing on the Howrah Bridge if that would lead them to Bengali votes in Canada.

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One person I spoke with said it had to do with vote-bank politics. Winning the next elections is as important if not more important than signing a multi-billion dollar trade and dubious cultural agreements with India. I am willing to bet that if there was a choice between visiting PM Modi’s home state of Gujarat to see the progress and visiting the Golden Temple, no prizes for guessing which place would be visited.

I really believe that politicians around the world should not be allowed anywhere near a place of worship unless he or she belonged to that religion or wanted to pay a visit as a private individual. Just as there is a separation of Church and State, there should be a rule barring politicians who defile places of worship by preying on the sentiments of the Indian diaspora whom they think will reward them with votes. – CINEWS

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