Ahead of polls, Australian MP woos Indians, Sikhs

by IANS |

Melbourne, Nov 19 (IANS) Ahead of the impending election in Australia's Victoria state, its premier and Labour MP Daniel Andrews, visited religious shrines, and promised cultural grants for the Indian and Sikh communities upon his victory.

Led by Andrews, the incumbent Labor government is seeking a third successive four-year term in the November 26 elections in Victoria, which boasts of nearly 276,770 people of Indian origin.

On his recent visit to the New Sri Durga Temple in Melbourne last week, Andrews promised that his government will invest A$10 million in Indian projects, if the party is re-elected at the state election.

"The story of Indian migration and its strength comes from its diversity... And there is no other community that works harder than the Indian community," he said in September, as campaigning for elections took off.

The Labour leader on Wednesday visited a Gurudwara in Blackburn where he said that there will be significant grants for the Sikh community from the A$10 million fund.

The Premier raised the prospect of organising the 'biggest Langar' at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which would see participation from gurdwaras from across the state.

Lighting up significant government buildings in Melbourne with saffron colour for Guru Nanak Dev's birthday every year, will also be among the initiatives taken by the party, if voted to power.

According to the 2021 census, the Sikhs form one of the largest subgroups of Indian-origin people in Australia with 210,000 adherents having grown from 12,000 in 1996, 17,000 in 2001, 26,500 in 2006 and 72,000 in 2011.

The Indian community tended to gravitate towards Labor because of its focus on schools, healthcare and infrastructure, a report in The Age newspaper said.

"The bigger the diaspora grows, the stronger our relationship," Andrews said during a media interaction in September.

More than 50 Indian-origin candidates across all political parties and independents are in fray for the November 26 polls.

Many of these candidates are from the fledgling New Democrats party, which was launched in early October by Kaushaliya Vaghela, the first Indian-born member of the Victorian parliament, IANS reported earlier.

This year, Labor candidates of Indian-origin include Mannie Kaur Verma from Rowville and Nildhara Gadani from North Eastern Metro.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2021 census, 783,958 persons declared their ancestry as Indian, constituting 3.1 per cent of the country's population.

Migration from India to Australia increased dramatically between 2006 and 2016, more than doubling the numbers of the India-born population, and according to estimates, India-born Australians are expected to outnumber Chinese-born Australians by 2031, reaching 1.4 million.

The postal voting to elect the 60th Parliament of Victoria began on November 2.

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