Daniel Andrews did on October 24, which no other Premier has done it. The premier, on the actual festival of lights date – October 24, 2022, organized a Diwali state reception and invited 600 plus prominent members of the state’s Indian community and celebrated their festival with them – as one of their own.
He performed God Ganesha and Goddess Lakshami pooja and aarti on stage with the pious chanting of holy mantras by two priests filling the Victoria Pavilion at the Melbourne Showgrounds reverberated with the Hindu ethos and culture.
In a way, the Indian community came home with the premier welcoming them doing the aarti – embracing them and acknowledging their contribution to their own new home.
Along with the premier, Multicultural Affairs Minister Ros Spence, the Victorian Multicultural Commissioner Vivienne Nguyen and Indian Consul General of Melbourne Dr Sushil Kumar were in attendance celebrating the triumph of good over evil and of light over darkness.
After the premier spoke, it became clear, this will now become a regular, annual event on the premier’s calendar.
“I think this night.. is something we should celebrate each and every year,” Premier Daniel Andrews announced.
“The triumph of unity over division, the triumph of light over darkness, that’s what we come here to celebrate today,” Daniel Andrews told the crowd.
“I thank you for all that you contribute to our multiculturalism, to our diversity to our success as a state.
“We owe you a great debt because that focus on hard work, focus on family and focus on faith coupled with not simply a celebration of culture and heritage but the sharing of that with the broader Victorian community, is special,” the premier added.
President of the Hindu Council of Australia Makrand Bhagwat presented the premier with a copy of Shrimad Bhagwat Gita, asking the premier to take some time off after November 26 to read the holy scripture to learn the immeasurable knowledge that is therein.
Gurpreet Verma presented a ‘Diya’ to the premier as a symbol of light.
The event was pious, cultural, social and political with many more sitting MPs and many more prospective MPs (candidates) in attendance joining in the spirit of the night.
Performances by the Country people, the Indian community groups presenting some classical and Bollywood dances and songs with the audiences in their cultural attire – made it a truly a fusion night out for the multicultural Victoria.
While the younger crowd seemed busy in the moment, some elderly who have been here for many decades, marked the moment as a new milestone in the success of multiculturalism in our state and country.
Many will see it as “electioneering” or “pork barrelling” trying to win over the swinging Indian voter. I would vehemently disagree with that characterization. Premier has been in politics long enough to know how the Indian voter behaves. A selfie, a hug or a hello with love at any function can win him votes. He does not have to spend money on state reception like this to win them over.
“This is to make sure good outcome on November 26”, quipped someone who seemed to enjoy the hospitality.
“Really and how would that be ensured with this event?” I asked and asked for his name. He did not want to be identified.
Even a novice political journo will challenge that assertion.
To the cynics, the ‘raving selfie brigade’ showed the advantage incumbency carries. To the faithful, the event shows the might and respect of the Indian community and the recognition and acknowledgement of it by the state. It shows the time is right for all political aspirants in our community to put their hand up, ask to be noticed by the head honchos of the main political parties and start their journeys.
In comparison to the Opposition’s interaction with the community, Premier’s Diwali state reception looked well thought out and fruitful for the Labor party.