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Political candidates are campaigning hard this election to court Indian-Australian voters. Are their strategies paying off?

Scott Morrison’s Facebook curry count for the election campaign currently sits at two. Three if you count the khichdi he made a day before calling the election.

Morrison was celebrating Australia’s new trade agreement with India and decided to cook his “dear friend” and Indian PM Nardendra Modi’s favorite food.

The posts have drawn flak for being tokenistic, but they’ve also been viral hits, with some in the Indian community appreciating the cultural nod and wishing “ScoMo” the best for the election.

The PM is not the only one trying to influence the Indian-Australian voter. Politicians across the spectrum are seeing Australia’s Indian diaspora as a demographic of growing influence.

People born in India make up the second largest group of migrants to Australia, behind England and ahead of China. The number of Indian-born residents soared from 373,000 in 2011 to 710,000 in 2021.

In the 2022 election, the Liberal and Labor campaigns have made coordinated efforts to appeal to the community by promising millions of dollars for cultural organisations, fielding candidates with Indian heritage, and capitalizing on issues important to the community — especially in key western Sydney seats like Greenway and Parramatta, and the Victorian electorate of La Trobe.

The number of Indian-born residents in Australia soared from 373,000 in 2011 to 710,000 in 2021.(Supplied: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

Appealing to the community

Analysis by advocacy group Allies in Color has revealed there are more than 100 candidates from diverse backgrounds contesting lower house seats this election. Around a third of those candidates have a background from the Indian subcontinent.

The Liberals mainly have their Indian-origin candidates in electorates like Greenway, Lalor, Chifley, Hotham and Maribyrnong — areas with some of the highest concentrations of India-born voters in NSW and Victoria.

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In the safe Labor seat of Chifley, Liberal candidate and Punjabi man Jugandeep Singh has been appealing directly to his community.

“I won’t say you should vote for me just because I’m Punjabi, because that’s the wrong message for a multicultural Australia,” Singh told a crowd of hundreds in his native language.

“I can’t ask for your vote just because I’m Punjabi. But I will say whenever you begin something new, you should start by talking it through with your family and you are my family.”

Labor and Greens candidates are less targeted, but the parties have focused on positioning candidates with subcontinental ancestry in the multicultural seats of Higgins, La Trobe, Swan and Werriwa.

Finding a political voice

There are a few factors that help explain the political interest in the Indian diaspora, says Dr Sukhmani Khorana from Western Sydney University’s Institute for Culture and Society.

“I think politicians are waking up to the fact that there is a sizeable diaspora, especially in marginal seats [with] new and undecided voters,” she told the ABC.

She says Australia is also trying to prioritize its relationship with India after the diplomatic fallout with China.

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