10 Apr 2019

Indians in New Zealand keep a close watch on elections back home

8:38 am on 10 April 2019

Many Indians living in New Zealand are glued to their national elections with some even flying back to vote and help political campaigning.

Kalyan Rao

Kalyan Rao says he is passionate about politics in India. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Nearly 900 million people begin heading to the polls tomorrow to determine the fate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

It's the largest democratic exercise in the world with a million polling booths.

Known as the Lok Sabha election, the five-week-long election grips not only the nation but the attention of its global diaspora.

For some, it is important enough to go back and help campaign.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures during a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rally in Chennai

Indian PM Narendra Modi Photo: AFP

That is certainly the case for Kalyan Rao who returned to India late last year.

"I like helping people [and] it was a passion for me ... to be a part of the political system, but I moved here," he said.

"So, at least I wanted to contribute."

The national elections come around every five years and there are 543 seats up for grabs.

Two other seats are reserved for Anglo-Indians.

Mr Rao spent two months campaigning for the state elections, which give political parties an early indication of voters' intentions

He is now back in Auckland but said there was still work to be done.

"There are a lot of people who concentrate [on the election] from here and help through Facebook and Whatsapp," he said.

"[They also] call their hometown and chat to their friends and families, relatives [about] whichever party they are affiliated with."

In the 2018 census, about 250,000 Indians lived in New Zealand but they were not able to vote unless they were back in India.

Sunil Kaushal from the Waitakere Indian Association and the India Trade Alliance

Suni Kaushal says socila media will play a big part in the upcoming Indian elections. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Sunil Kaushal from the Waitakere Indian Association and the India Trade Alliance, a business group, said the community was watching with keen interest what was happening back home, and was feeling closer to the action than ever.

"I think technology has a big part to play," he said.

India elections whatsapp message

Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

"No one's going to wait until [the] six o'clock news to find out what's happening ... if anything happens in India it's 'bang' on the social media.

"So the Indian diaspora in New Zealand is certainly glued onto the social media."

Mr Kaushal was back in India during the 2014 national election and said the atmosphere was electric.

"There's stickers on the buses, on your car - if you're not careful someone will come and plaster something," he said.

"Indians are very passionate about politics and about cricket."

Voting in the world's biggest democracy continues until 19 May with the results out four days after.