Deepak-Raj Gupta, who made history by becoming the first person of Indian origin to be elected to the ACT parliament, is running for re-election in the Australian Capital Territory's Assembly elections. He spoke to SBS Punjabi about his first term as MLA, his vision for the future, and about campaigning for elections during COVID restrictions.
Deepak-Raj Gupta is a Labor party candidate in the ACT elections currently underway until October 17. He was first elected as an MLA in the ACT Legislative Assembly in 2016 from the electorate of Yerrabie.
He says he's achieved a lot during his first term, and believes that his track record will enable him to be successful in his bid for re-election in 2020.
- Deepak-Raj Gupta is a Labor party candidate from Yerrabie in the 2020 ACT Assembly elections
- Mr created history in 2016, when he was the first Indian origin MLA to be elected in ACT
- He hopes to see more female representation in parliaments around Australia, especially women of Indian origin
"I have received a wonderful response from the community during campaigning. Of course, it has been hampered by COVID restrictions and we couldn't hold functions for a long time, but I have relied heavily on making personal phone calls to my constituents," Mr Gutpa tells SBS Punjabi.
"I must've made at least 150 calls every single day and all up, I would've made well over 25,000 phone calls in addition to door knocking. The community response has been heartening, because although this has been a very forgettable year, first due to the bushfires, then the hailstorm in Canberra, which was followed by COVID, people seem to be happy with the government response."
Mr Gupta says his first term in the ACT assembly has been very rewarding experience.
"I have found that people don't have huge demands. They have basic requirements like getting rid of a blind spot, fixing a pothole or cutting down an encroaching tree, and I have been fortunate that I have been able to help fulfil these small but essential needs," he says.
He speaks of visiting aged care homes to meet the elderly, taking steps to improve mental health in the community and developing a plan for the future.
"I moved a motion in the assembly for the future generations because I believe water security, clean energy and climate change are important matters to work on. We have to leave the planet in a condition that the future generations can enjoy it, just like we have."
And Mr Gupta says his election to ACT assembly has also proved to be beneficial for the Australian-Indian community.
"Last year, we created history by having the Assembly open up on a Saturday - that has never ever happened before - to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji. Prayers were recited and langar (vegetarian meal) was served to everyone. It was wonderful to see that happening for the first time ever in Canberra."
He adds, "I've also helped secure a large piece of land for a Hindu temple, which I'm sure will become a tourist attraction in the future. Most importantly, a motion I moved was passed in the assembly to build a 1000-seat Multicultural Community hall in Canberra with state of the art facilities."
He looks forward to celebrating cultural and religions festivals there, including Diwali, Vaisakhi, Navratri and Holi.
But Mr Gupta believes one of his greatest achievements is that he has blazed a trail for other Australians of Indian origin to become more active in politics.
"We are a very hard-working and progressive community and my election has proven that we can become lawmakers too."
"Now I really look forward to more female representation from our community in our parliaments, no matter which political party they belong to. I really hope that someone of Indian origin goes on to enter federal and other state parliaments, and I'll be delighted if we have female MPs or MLAs from the Indian community."
To hear the full interview, please click on the audio player above.
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