At the beginning of my career 30 years ago, I recall meeting a semi-retired philanthropist industrialist who was often asked to consider politics given his long commitment to social service and charity in Mumbai.
In response to a question why he never considered politics, he said that if he ever got into politics, he would lose because in order to win you had no choice but to indulge in unethical practices, cultivate unsavory characters and nurture vote banks which in the case of Mumbai were slum dwellers who would only vote if you promised to regulate their illegal structures and throw in all kinds of freebies. Being a man of principle, he could just not make such compromises. Today of course many of the former slum dwellers and slumlords have themselves got into politics and have even won elections.
As I read about irregularities in dozens of nomination processes of candidates from all Canadian parties at provincial and federal levels, I realize that many of the unethical electoral practices that tarnished Indian politics has made its way here.
Thousands of immigrants like myself who in part made that fateful decision to immigrate because of corruption and its residual effects feel let down when we read or hear about corrupt and unethical practices are beginning to take root here in mainstream Canadian politics.
In the old days Caucasian politicians running in ridings with a large South Asian immigrant population made it a point to cultivate these vote banks, these days ridings with a large South Asian base are more likely to throw up local South Asian candidates. Caucasian who aspire to political office have to run in ridings where South Asians don’t have a large political footprint, but even that is not guaranteed given the fact that rookie South Asians are winning nominations in ridings where the community is small but growing rapidly.
It can be argued that South Asians are taking their ‘rightful’ place in Canadian mainstream politics and I have no problem with that as long as the nomination processes are transparent and all political parties can prove that there were no irregularities. And of course it would be nice if the candidate regardless of ethnicity has earned his place in the riding, with all communities and not just his or her ethnic community.
I once met a white man who proudly revealed he was a Liberal party member for 30 years, his second wife however supported another party and one of the topics off-limit in his house was politics.
On the other hand I have heard of many South Asians who’ve been signed on as members of all three major political parties. In some cases they didn’t know who they were expected to support until they were called to vote for a particular candidate in a nomination battle by a community leader or a member of their own extended family. Entire families have become party members and are expected to support a particular candidate because he or she happens to be from their part of the world and increasingly region. It has nothing to do with party politics but with ethnic politics.
This may explain why it is so hard for a white political aspirant to sign up memberships and win nominations because he or she insists that the member pays the nomination fee and mostly ensures that the member lives in the riding. And also when it comes to voting, few white voters can expect their candidate to organize buses and taxi services to ferry them to the venue to cast their ballot.
Every now and again there are a few media reports that suggest irregularities or how a candidate hijacked the nomination process but those stories quickly die.
Because of a tendency for South Asians to vote for ‘one of our own’, even an unknown rookie South Asian in many communities can theoretically win a nomination battle against veterans who’ve lived and contributed immensely to the community. This reminded me of the example I started out with about why people with character and integrity rarely enter Indian politics.
One reason why municipal politics always favors white councillors and mayors even in the Peel Region and Markham for example is there is no nomination process. If ever there is a system which allows for nominations, all these ageing incumbent councillors would find it hard to be repeatedly re-elected.
Today at the end of my journalism career I can only hope never to hear a decent political aspirant say it is impossible to get into Canadian politics because of ethical practices. -CINEWS