The soft green of Melbourne’s Flagstaff Garden is a world-away from the cut and thrust of India’s gargantuan election and six week voting process.
But fifty-odd supporters of the AAP or so-called “Common-Man’s Party” gathered in Melbourne to reinforce their political will.
It’s a relatively new party standing on an anti-corruption platform – which supporters say reflects the views of a middle-class growing increasingly disenchanted. Among the AAP supporters was Ravi Sharma, who says the party is growing steadily in response to what he describes as a corrupt political elite.
“Thirty-two per cent who are elected as member of parliamentarians in the current federal government have criminal backgrounds”, he says.
The 814,000,000 Indians registered to vote began casting ballots on Monday, and the numbers are extraordinary.
370 parties are contesting the electionRegistered voters are up by 100 million on the previous election930,000 polling stations have been established20,000,000 security staff will oversee the process
Director of the Australia India Institute Amitabh Mattoo says the key issue beyond corruption is the economy. “The economic growth came down from 10 per cent five years ago to about five per cent and this has led to recession, unemployment and again deep angst and resentment amonst the people.”
Economic credentials are the platform of the BJP Party, widely seen as the major threat to the ruling Congress.
The party has strong links to India’s majority Hindu population, and is led by Narendra Modi who is seen to have significantly improved the economy of Gujrat State where he was Chief Minister.
Dr Santosh Kumar is a Melbourne-based supporter of the party, and says Mr Modi’s performance in Gujarat should hold him in good stead.
“It is one of the most advanced states in India economically and in terms of management”, he says.
The secular ruling Congress Party, meanwhile. will be led by the latest member of India’s Gandhi dynasty.
Forty three year-old Rahul Gandhi is the grandson of the late Indira, and son of former Prime Minister the late Rajiv Gandhi.
Supporters says Congress is more inclusive than its political rivals. “It’s a team of people who have their strength in finance and judiciary that will help build the country”, Supporter Ambarish Deshmulch told SBS “It is not one person deciding what is right or wrong.”
As politically engaged as Australia’s Indian community appears to be, they won’t have any direct involvement in the election.
There are no postal ballots and only those residing in India at the time of the election are permitted to vote.
Voting will conclude on May 12, with the result expected to be announced four days later.