Indians make history no matter where they go. Kaushaliya Vaghela has made history twice.
Kaushaliya first made history in 2018 becoming the first Indian born Victorian to be elected to the state parliament as the Upper House Labor MP for the Western Metropolitan region. It was no small achievement for Kaushaliya whose father, an officer in the Indian Air Force officer and later a lawyer, had once worked as shoe polisher.
Kaushaliya Vaghela made not only the Victorian but the whole Australian Indian community immensely proud entering the state parliament.
On February 9, 2022 she again made history when she sensationally crossed the floor and delivered the crucial vote required by Adem Somyurek to have the Andrews government’s infamous “red shirts” scandal reinvestigated by IBAC.
It was the first ever and an ‘in-your-face’ type act of defiance in the life of Premier Daniel Andrews led government.
In a way the roots of this defiance go back to just before 2018 election when Kaushaliya Vaghela switched factions from Premier Daniel Andrews’ Socialist Left to Adem Somyurek’s Moderate Labor.
Kaushaliya and her husband were introduced to the Labor party by the Indian operatives of the Labor party and joined the party as a member of the Socialist Left, the power base of Premier Daniel Andrews.
After she switched factions to Moderate Labor, she joined the now ousted Labor MP and former power broker Adem Somyurek who has been embroiled in various battles with his former Labor colleagues.
Insiders say by switching factions, Kaushaliya managed the number three spot on the Western Metropolitan Region ticket giving herself a realistic chance of getting elected in case Labor (as anticipated) had a stronger than 2014 showing in 2018 elections.
The quota of Upper House seats for a political party is determined by the size of vote it gets in an election. The stronger the vote, the better the chance for its candidates on the list further down from those positioned at number 1.
Kaushaliya secured for herself number 3 spot, exactly from where Minister Martin Pakula was elected to parliament in 2006.
As the Opposition was finding it difficult to cut through against a dominant Premier Andrews, all the pundits on the Labor side were hoping to win with an increased majority in both houses of the parliament post 2018 elections.
In that context Kaushaliya’s move to the Moderate Labor faction delivered her the position on the ticket with a real chance of getting elected.
Labor had a very good election in 2018 posting a much stronger showing, with Labor’s two party preferred votes increasing from 51.99 per cent (in 2014) to 57.3 per cent in 2018, winning 8 more seats (55 to previous 47) in the Lower House.
The results translated as anticipated for the Upper House as well. Labor’s vote increased from 33.46 per cent in 2014 to 39.22 per cent in 2018 delivering 4 extra berths in the Upper House for the party.
In the Western Metropolitan Region, where the party had only managed two members (number 1 and number 2) in 2010 & 2014 with 2018 increased vote, it was entitled to 3 members as in 2006 – positions 1, 2 & 3 from the Western Metropolitan Region.
And the third place belonged to Kaushaliya Vaghela and she was elected to parliament.
These are not simple mathematical calculations but have much more significance in the broader scheme of things. The more members a faction manages to get elected, more power it has to claim slots in the cabinet and junior ministry.
A faction’s (read Moderate Labor’s) increased success meant more say which would not sit well with other factions (including the Socialist Left). That is the usual and normal ‘rough and tumble’ of politics. Someone suddenly – by having recruited more members into various branches – can get one’s own candidates pre-selected and elected to parliament and call the shots.
But as it turns out now and Kaushaliya claims, soon as she was elected, she became a target of bullying and abuse by some staffers in the Premier’s office. (See her inset statements).
Kaushaliya claims she was being sidelined by design and being kept out of community interactions.
Although details of threatening behaviour are yet to come out, it is unforgivable that she even felt ‘unsafe’ at times.
She claims she suffered for years – in silence. She further claims when she complained to the Premier’s office, her complaints were not dealt with appropriately.
Kaushaliya has named Vinayak Kolape who worked for the Premier in his office as advisor at the time, as the main culprit.
According to the Herald Sun, Vinayak Kolape has denied each and every allegation of bullying and abusive behaviour, sidelining her in the community.
In response to Kaushaliya’s allegation that her complaints fell on deaf ears, the Premier has said her complaints were addressed appropriately and action was taken – resulting in Vinayak Kolape losing his job.
BT understands Kaushaliya Vaghela is no longer in a position to be re-elected as Labor candidate at the next election later this year.
If this is the end of her political career, it is a sad end to a very astute and promising start with immense potential for the whole Victorian Indian community.
Kaushaliya should not have ended up in this mess. It is further aggravating for the Victorian Indian community that the alleged aggressor (who has denied any wrong-doing) Vinayak Kolape is also from our own community.
It is not a good look for the community and sets the community back by years if not decades for any political talent it has.
The Victorian Indian community has a right to know what actually went on.
Vinayak Kolape should face up to it and give his side of the story. If his Labor party bosses are stopping him, they no longer should.
This saga calls for a due and public redressal of the allegations Kaushaliya has made. It will not only alleviate her pain she claims to have been suffering for years, it will also restore community’s faith in the political process.
I wonder why all those female warriors in the mainstream media – attacking the slightest signs or insinuation of a misogynistic behaviour, have not taken up Kaushaliya’s cause. They all seem to have suddenly gone on a long sabbatical totally relieved of any weight of their pen.
Even the ABC, claims Kaushaliya, has not been fair to her in their ‘exclusive’ interview with her.
Is it because she is a migrant? therefore worth a lot less for their precious time?
Or is it because she is also part of Operation Watts, the IBAC investigation into corrupt conduct of parliamentarians?
Are they looking at her admissions made while giving evidence in the IBAC investigation in Operation Watts?
Then again the question is – was she just a pawn (although not really a big mitigating factor) in the hands of others?
She is not only accused of but has admittedly seen branch stacking well while she worked as member of the Socialist Left. (See her inset FB statements).
The alleged involvement of Indians in branch staking and other activities has hurt the community’s reputation.
The story also sets a precedent for political power brokers to use the Centuries old ‘divide and rule’ maxim once used by the East India Company to enslave India and rule it for 200 years.
Once the dust settles, whatever corrupt political practices she is found guilty of in the IBAC investigation, if any, Kaushliya may be seen by some, more than a victim of relentless bullying and abuse, a mere factional casualty who could not handle the ‘rough and tumble’ of politics.