21 October 2016: The fastest growing migrant community of Australia is fielding its candidate, or candidates rather, for the first time in its history and there are not one but four candidates including a Nepali-speaking Australian of Bhutanese origin. Victoria has become the trailblazing state for Nepali-speaking migrants trying to have a go at Australian politics.
Chandra Yonzon, the Honorary Consul General of Nepal in Victoria, confirmed this was the first time Nepalese people were fighting any elections in Australia. It was to happen sooner or later, he reckoned, given the increased population of Nepalese Australians. “I believe it will further increase in the days to come” he said.
However, Nepali-speaking migrants of a particular Council in Victoria have a tough electoral choice to make. In fact, speaking over the phone from Melbourne, a member of the community there told southasia.com.au that this year’s local elections are going to be a litmus test for Nepalese and Bhutanese communities of Moreland City Council – a test to prove how prudently and democratically they cast their votes.
This Saturday’s election will show if they cast their ballots based on communal considerations or on the quality of the candidates, he said.
Contesting Moreland City Council Elections 2016 are Raju Shakya and Parsu Sharma Luital. The former is of Nepalese origin while the latter is of Bhutanese. But both Nepali-speaking. Had they contested the election from two different Wards, they would have probably gotten the entire or “almost entire” votes of the Nepali-speaking voters within their Wards. The Nepalese and Bhutanese communities are very well-connected societies – they speak the same language, practice the same religion (Hindu-majority), read the same literature and observe the same festivals.
So, naturally, it is going to be hard for many to make decisions between the two, some believe. A single candidate from between the two communities would have greatly heightened the chances of winning a vacancy in this weekend’s election, they say.
There are four vacancies in the North West Ward of the Moreland City Council, and there are 14 candidates.
For a 28 year old young man from Melton, who said he was close to both Mr Luital and Mr Shakya, it really did not matter because even if a voter was Nepalese it did not mean he or she would definitely vote for Raju Shakya and similarly if a voter was of Bhutanese origin then that similarly did not make him or her vote for Parsu Sharma Luital.
“It’s a matter of personal choice,” said Khagendra Acharya during a telephone chat with southasia.com.au, “No one is going to say we are Bhutanese and therefore, we must support Bhutanese and same goes for Raju Shakya, no Nepalese is going to vote him just because he is a Nepalese.”
Mr Acharya noted that people were smart enough to see who was dedicated to the community or who had selflessly worked for the people of Moreland City Council.
When asked if he expected votes from the Bhutanese community also, Raju Shakya said he had already received words of support from members of the Bhutanese community. “I can not speak for everyone in Bhutanese Community, but my message of being a true representative of rapidly emerging communities like Nepalese, Bhutanese has been received well. This makes me believe I will get some votes from Bhutanese Community. As far as Nepalese voters are concerned, I believe majority will vote for me because I am the only candidate who is a true representation of Nepalese Community’s interest,” the popular Melbourne-based community leader said in an emailed response to southasia.com.au.
The former Monash University student further said that he has been involved with major events and developments that have taken place in the Nepalese community for over ten years now which he believes the Nepalese voters in North-West ward of Moreland City Council are well aware of.
Parsu Sharma Luital was also approached by southasia.com.au but the member of the Australian Labor Party declined to comment but indicated that he was not bothered about one particular candidate as he was “running against 13 other people”.
Mr Luital is also a popular personality in Melbourne’s Bhutanese and Nepalese communities. His Facebook page is full of images showing newspaper clippings that detail his achievements over the years.
A status posted on October 18 says, “My candidacy for Moreland North West Ward (NWW) election is based on my 15 years of community work and passion to make a difference and differences I have made. The photos in various media below are my testimonies to make your choice to whom you want to VOTE on 22nd Oct Saturday.”
As for Raju Shakya, he says he has two key messages to any emerging community within Moreland City Council, be it Bhutanese or Nepalese or any other community, “Emerging community has its own issues/aspirations/problems and they need to brought into attention. In some cases, special attention needs to be paid to these. I am running in the election to be the voice of emerging communities. I have always put community above my self interest and will continue to do so. I am hopeful that members of Bhutanese Community and other emerging communities will place their trust in me and select me to represent their community.”
Dr Mahesh Singh Bhandari is another candidate from Victoria’s Nepalese community. He is contesting from Harrison Ward of the Wyndham City Council.
According to his Facebook page, Dr Bhandari is also from the Labor Party.
This article has been edited 21Oct16 12:41 aest