A nine year veteran and two times candidate walked out of the Labour Party last Friday and joined National because he was fed up with Labour’s approach to law and order.
Sunny Kaushal is a well known Indian community leader in Auckland who has been leading a campaign to get more protection for Indian shopkeepers faced with violent robberies.
Kaushal stood for Labour in Pakuranga in 2011; for the list in 2014 and then withdrew his name earlier this year when he was offered a low list ranking.
The Indian Weekender website said that Kaushal had been with Labour for the past nine years, and many in the Indian community believed that he had become the face of the Labour Party.
The Indian Weekender says that Kaushal’s defection meant that the leaders within the community who had first hand connection with the Labour Party during the Helen Clark and Phil Goff leadership were gradually slipping into political oblivion under the current Labour leadership.
“Only time will tell if the current Labour leadership has done a major miscalculation in sidelining Mr Kaushal from the Party in building bridges with the Kiwi-Indian community,” it says.
However, it singled out Labour’s Maungakiekie candidate, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, as being one Labour person who was in touch with the Indian community.
National is clearly revelling in the defection and arranged a lunch for Kaushal last Friday with Party President, Peter Goodfellow and Auckland Regional Chair, Andrew Hunt at a Khyber Pass restaurant.
Kaushal has led a campaign calling for tougher action to combat dairy and small shop robberies in Auckland – an issue important to the Indian community, many of whom are shop owners.
He told POLITIK that he was getting a lot of support for his stance and more and more members of the community, which had historically backed Labour, were now turning to National.
“For the community, the law and order issue is Number One,” he said.
He said Labour was not saying anything about it.
“Their leaders are not fronting up.”
He was impressed with National’s willingness to talk about the issue.
“Yesterday the Prime Minister was at the Sikh temple at Papatoetoe, and he specifically mentioned law and order, and he said they were aware of it and they were taking action and listening to us.
“He said the dairy owners and shopkeepers do not need to live in fear and secondly he mentioned immigration saying the Government was going to keep immigration open.
“So they are connecting with the voters.”
Over the weekend Kaushal’s Crime Prevention Group met the Indian High Commissioner, Sanjeev Kohli, asking him with the Government the rising incidences of crime and aggravated robberies against Indian shop owners.
The Indian Weekender reported Kohli as saying: “There was a mutual consensus in the room that such attacks were not racially motivated in any manner and likewise, there is no intention to raise the matter in that way.”
The website said he counselled Kaushal’s group about the need for the Indian community in NZ to participate proactively in the democratic space in New Zealand politics to raise all of their concerns.
Labour has only three Indian candidates in its list — Radhakrishnan (10), Baljit Kaur (63) and Dr Gaurav Sharma (69).
The battle for the ethnic vote in Auckland will be critical this election campaign and Kaushal’s move may indicate an historic shift away from the Indian community’s traditional support for Labour.