Metro Vancouver’s Indo-Canadians taking active roles in India’s election

Published: May 8, 2014

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Members of AAP Canada gather in Surrey, B.C. Submitted photo/Facebook.


As the world’s largest election heads into its final phase in India, Surrey’s Gurpal Dhillon will be burning the midnight oil to give one “last big push” in his campaign for the country’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

As a member of AAP Canada — made up of thousands of Indo-Canadians — Dhillon has spent months fundraising and campaigning for the party locally and internationally.

He’s set up booths at the Vancouver and Surrey Vaisakhi parades and dedicated many evenings to “call India campaigns,” in which he phones Indian residences to promote the party’s anti-corruption platform.

Supporters in Canada alone have raised about $200,000; according to the party’s website, Canada is one of the top five donor countries.

And with the six-week long election drawing to a close Monday, Dhillon and fellow AAP Canada members will be pulling some all-nighters for “call India campaigns.”

“We are just going to make our last big push,” Dhillon told Vancouver Desi before he settled into the makeshift call centre in Surrey.

Dhillon is one of many Indians overseas offering support to an Indian political party.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — whose leader Narendra Modi appears poised to win the election, taking out the Congress Party which has been in power for the past decade — has its Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), which includes about 700 British Columbians, such as Vancouver’s Aditya Tawatia.

Tawatia’s role with OFBJP is “about raising awareness,” so — much like Dhillon — he reaches out to Indian families to talk about the party and encourage them to vote BJP.

“India’s ruling party for the past decade — the Congress Party — has miserably failed,” said Tawatia. “The corruption issue, the foreign policy — all those issues have put Indians down.”

Tawatia said India needs a leader “who can lead — who has the politics, who has the vision and who can implement and deliver to the people, and Mr. Modi is all about that.”

While both Dhillon and Tawatia are a world away from the ongoing election — having immigrated to Canada decades ago — they still feel tied to their home country’s politics.

“All of us (AAP Canada members) were born in India and we spent quite a number of years in India prior to coming to Canada,” said Dhillon. “We know what difficulties there are, we know what’s wrong over there.”

It wasn’t until the AAP was created within the last year or so that he fully supported a party.

“Majority parties in India were either too corrupt or too communal for our liking and finally we found an alternative,” he said, touting the party’s progressive and transparent agenda.

Similarly, Tawatia sees it as his “duty” to stay connected.

“I will always be a proud Canadian, but at the same time I will always be Indo-Canadian,” he said.

It’s not just those associated with the parties who are following the Indian election, though.

Sunil Bhatia, born and raised in Delhi and now the director of the Victoria-based India Canada Cultural Association, has also been following the polls.

“You have an affiliation so you want to see what’s happening over there, what the economic impact is going to be for individual candidates, who’s going to come in,” he said, adding he’s also interested to see how the country’s new ruler will impact foreign trade and relations, especially with Canada.

India’s polling booths close Monday, after the country’s 814 million eligible voters have finally cast their ballots. Results are expected to be announced May 16.

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