WHO IS ENCOURAGING
THE SPOIL OF THE VOTE!
In a kind of nerve-breaking contest, Naresh Bhardwaj won the Tory nomination in Edmonton Ellerslie. Literally pigeonholed in a particular community, candidates had signed up a large number of new members. But as usual, only 20 per cent of the voter turned up to vote. This approach has contributed to communal strife, back in their countries of origin. The rules need to be changed.
Naresh Bhardwaj, in a kind of a nerve-breaking contest, won the nomination of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta from Edmonton- Ellerslie constituency Saturday, November 24. In a triple-corner contest, held at St. Richard’s School, he defeated two Tory old-guards, Bas Roopnarien and Sukhi Randhawa. Bas, who was considered a non-entity, scored an honourable chunk of votes, occupying the second place. The winner led nearly with 40 votes. In total, around 740 votes were cast, though officially the numbers were not disclosed.
In the last provincial election, Naresh Bhardwaj fought from Edmonton- Mill Woods, but he couldn’t succeed against the Liberal candidate Weslyn Mather. Whereas Sukhi Randhawa and Bas Roopnarien lost nomination to Gurnam Dodd. But, Bharat Agnihotri won this seat as a Liberal Party candidate. Edmonton- Ellerslie has remained a Liberal seat, since its inception in 1993.
As usual, people belonging to the NDP and the Liberal party were also seen actively involved in the Tory-voting, perhaps to support the candidate of their clan. May be they had turned a Tory for a day. Still, die-hard Tories voted for Bas. Otherwise, the our man factor dominated the vote throughout the day.
Since morning till late in the evening, squads of supporters of the candidates kept the atmosphere agog with rumours. They were making tall claims about their respective candidates. A number of them remained in the parking lot, speaking frantically into their cellphones, imploring their friends to come out and vote. While the media was busy in searching an exclusive story. In the afternoon, when the voting was at its peak, I caught up with a voter and asked his views about the on-goings, he said “ That is not good. There are too many of us here. Most even don’t know anything about the candidates. They will just vote the way they have been tutored.” The nomination process was seriously flawed, further impressed the middle-aged voter.
Whenever there was an election, faction within factions within the ethnic groups turn the ridings into a political minefield where only the courageous could tread. It looked as if some kind of guerrilla war was going on. Still, inspite of a band of volunteers and memberships more than two thousand, only twenty per cent people turned –up to vote. It fully reflected the voters lack of interest. They seem to have fed –up with the kind of parochial and petty politics being carried-out especially in the ethnic groups, now for a decade.
It was interesting to note that in all the three ridings of Edmonton South, except this Tory contest here in Ellerslie, all the other Tory and Liberal candidates were virtually acclaimed. There was no contest, though the reasons were different. The nominated candidates were: Gene Zwozdesky (Tory) and Aman Gill (Liberal) in Edmonton Millcreek; Weslyn Mather (Liberal) and Carl Benito (Tory) in Edmonton Millwoods; while Bharat Agnihotri (Liberal) and Marilyn Smith (NDP) in Edmonton Ellerslie. Other parties have not yet public the names of their candidates.
Whether it was a candidates popularity or constituents disinterest in the ongoing political process, which factor weighed more in their acclamations, only the voter knows better. Perhaps, this being the only contested nomination in a hub of the South Asian population, it caught the eye of the national media on such a controversial note that it turned the event accrimonial, even before the nomination meeting was held on November 24.
After closely watching the present procedure and campaign of nomination meetings, now for a decade, I earnestly feel that to be educated or to be a refined person hasn’t much to do with the nomination race. Today, besides connections, it requires a lot of money to sign thousands of voters (from one’s own pocket), to appease volunteers, print flyers and posters, prepare banners, and also to involve media. Besides pumping money, precious time and energy, and above all, one would require tons of moral and physical strength to bear and face the onslaught of the opponents. One would like to bow his head to such individuals who are continuously involved in this kind of nerve-breaking nomination contests. They must be having iron in their souls.
This form of ethno-politics is not new. Steeped in a democratic past and encouraged by recent electoral breakthroughs, this has particularly emerged amongst the South Asians. The tainted election of Ujjal Dosanjh as the first Indo-Canadian premier in the country in 2000, and then the election of a dozen members of Parliament last year, were the signs of a movement that has been gaining strength day-by-day using a “block voting” technique and something known as the “apna factor”—
means anybody belonging to the community. As it has worked in the past, now instead of working with the main-stream, candidates literally pigeonhole themselves in a particular community and win a nomination without any commitment to the people at large.
In this manner, people from closely knit communities whether religious, ethnic or other, can achieve a degree of influence over the selection of candidates that is disproportionate to their presence in the community. This desease is common in all the parties, and has resulted in a distortion of democracy.
The game doesn’t stop here. It is being felt that ethnics don’t vote en masse if politicians don’t play the game of appeasement. Rampant distribution of cheques by the rulers (of all the parties) to particular vote banks, in the name of multicultural promotion, is not less than an act of corruption. In a way, it is a buying of votes with taxpayers hard earned money.
Thus, the rise of “ethno-politics” and the phenomenon of “instant members” is a development that has been tacitly encouraged by the political parties because of their voracious appetite for supporters and the fees they bring.
Indeed, rules to elect a candidate are so liberal that it is makindg a mockery of the democracy. It has gone too far. So, the rules need to be changed, particularly to check block voting and also to stop a flood of uncommited instant voters. In the present scenario, who will bare the stigma of abuses! Ethnic voters do not control the establishment of any party. Then, who is encouraging and benefiting from these rules? It must be the party establishment, which is still White Anglos.
It looks that the tall slogans of promoting unity in diversity and multiculturism are being badly mis-used, particularly by the politicians to remain in power. If they have the WILL, they can work to further stop the spoil of the vote.