Yes, I dared to run. I wanted to make a positive difference. I had absolutely no experience in active politics, but I still ran. I had confidence in myself; I believed I could do it. And I did it, I ran the full race. I tried my best. I ran a 6-month long campaign. I wrote in the local newspapers on a fortnightly basis. I walked and ran an average of 4 hours, covering not less than 20 km everyday, for about two months to do the letter-boxing. I letter-boxed every house in every street of every suburb. My policies were written by me and I meant every word written on my election pamphlet. I stood at the voting booth, for an average of 8 hours daily, during the 13 days of early voting. I engaged many people during my 6-month long journey. My supporters manned all 11 polling booths on the Election Day. Was it all sufficient? In the short-term, obviously, it was not. But, who knows what happens in the long-term, time along will tell.
Elections are not examinations, where a lot depends upon one’s hard work and intelligence, elections depend a lot on the psychology of the people and the human psychology is extremely complex. Fear psychosis plays a decisive part.
Yes, I may feel severely bruised and battered at the moment, physically and mentally, but I also feel deeply satisfied and happy with myself, as, along the way, I managed to leave a good impression on the minds of many people. I may have managed to raise the social awareness of many real and importance issues facing us now, as we speak, and many potential issues arising in the future.
In the process, as a satisfying reward, I also gained respect from my rival candidates and their volunteers, which I consider as my major win.
But, as they say, ‘nothing succeeds like success’ and ‘the winner takes it all’, I may be judged on surface by some people as a failure, or even a lunatic or a disillusioned fool who ran, just because I was not the first to cross to the other side. In politics, success has many parents but failures are generally orphans.
At the moment, I don’t know if it was my brief sojourn with active politics or if I am here for a long haul, only time will tell.
It is true that, on many occasions, I felt like an outcast, an outsider and a total misfit for active politics. Interestingly, a volunteer of a rival candidate, who had been observing me during those three weeks of early voting, commented, ‘You seem to be too soft and too nice for all this.’ I took some time to respond, as I was unprepared for such a remark, before saying, ‘I am like water, normally with no strength but with immense strength when it moves with purpose.’
Some people may attribute my failure to my inexperience in politics or being an unknown entity in the local political arena. However, surprisingly, they don’t seem to attach this kind of reasoning to many other important events and phases in the course of our lives. Did I have any experience of studying in a university alongside grown up students when I commenced my engineering undergraduate degree a few days shy of my 16th birthday? Did I have experience of teaching at the university level when I started teaching at 21? Did I have experience of being a married person when I married at 23? Did I have experience of being a parent when I became father at 24? Did I have experience of being an uprooted refugee when I left my home (in Kashmir) in distress and desperation at 27? Did I have experience of living abroad and working full time in an engineering consulting firm at 32? Did I have experience of living or working in Australia when I immigrated and made this country my new home at the age of 35?
The answer to all above questions is ‘no’, I had none of these experiences; I just put my best forward every time although I knew there would be many hurdles along the way that I had to surmount and cross. Every time, I believed in myself and optimistically hoped for the best. In all earlier phases of my life, undoubtedly, I did struggle initially and suffered from many teething issues but my intrinsic tenacity, determination and resilience saw me through and things turned out fine in the end, each and every time. This time also, when I accepted my political candidature, in August 2020, I used my default mindset and set out to sail in unchartered and untested waters. Had I pulled through successfully in the end, I would have made history but, unfortunately, that was not meant to be; the odds were stacked heavily against not only me but also against most other good candidates who did not have the Labor label. After all, this was a labor Tsunami.
Even if a million dollars would have been spent on my campaign, the outcome would possibly have not changed, as the timing of the election did not favour most of us. One may blame it on Covid-19 or on the current mindset of people.
Yes, despite the odds, I dared to run and did my best. It was a 6-month long hard but amazing journey. It stretched me extensively on several fronts — physically, mentally and financially. Whatever the outcome, my hard work will not go waste, as nothing goes waste. This experience will help me further in my spiritual growth, as a human. When I lost my mother about 12 years back, I learnt to accept personal setbacks with courage and fortitude, I became fearless.
Our losses and failures help us to grow, not necessarily our wins or successes.
Kenneth Tobins, a world renowned academic from the US (originally from Perth), sent me the following message on Facebook this morning:
‘In so many ways, change is associated with ripple effects and you have created many waves that will continue to ripple, interacting/transacting as they permeate social spaces. Culture reveals itself in unsettled times and we need the ripples to give us glimpses of the underbelly, which may not be as pleasant as gazing into the reflective surfaces of a still body of water. So, keep on casting stones into the still waters and take the time to learn from what is revealed. Here lies one way forward for social change … do they actually listen and learn in all that goes on in the different levels of elected government?’
Julie Matheson, Perth politician and Convenor of Western Australia Party, wrote the following message on Facebook:
‘Well done Bill. You introduced a very important campaign for a new Engineer-in-Chief in this election. No matter the outcome, this campaign must continue because WA had been de-engineered and nobody is taking responsibility for the very poor outcomes in infrastructure and new builds in WA. Keep going Bill. We stand with you.’
Rekha, my life partner, did not say much except that it has been a good life experience for us. Obviously, the final outcome must certainly have disappointed her utterly, considering her unconditional support and commitment to walk with me on this difficult and uphill journey. I remember she walked with me on many hot days, carrying bottles of cold water, during my long campaign in summer months and then also took a month off from her work to support me through the excruciatingly 3-week long voting period, which were physically and mentally draining for both of us.
Ashok Peer, a dear friend from Kashmir, wrote as follows:
‘The Bhagavad Geeta says that our right is to perform our duty in the best possible manner. What is the best possible manner? I think you know it better than most of us. Your passionate love for humanity, care for its secular development and progress, safe and clean environment, peace and general welfare of people, makes you an ideal person to be in public life. The loss in an election is not the end of the road for public life. It is the beginning. I won’t say that to stay in public life without having some purpose and personal goal to achieve. The purpose of any good endeavour is not the reaching to personal goal every time you hit the field. The purpose is to collaborate, learn , preserve and enjoy the journey towards the goal. It is not material if the goal is missed once or twice when journey was charming and enlightening. Reading you and comments from your well wishers, voters and others tell a story that the journey was marvellous. I, like many others of your well wishers, trust you will continue your journey in public life and bring into it in the forefront humanity, truth and honesty, which in the present world is needed more than anything else.’
OP Kakroo, another dear friend from Kashmir, added:
‘For us Kashmiris, your participating in the race in itself is a victory. You are a learned person and you know that politics is a long drawn journey. One cannot expect quick results. If they happen, they can be misleading in the long run. You have just started and if it appeals to your nature, be on it now onward. Politics is service and this in itself is a satisfying experience.’
Apurva, a young Master’s student at a Perth university (from Jammu), who also volunteered for me on the Election Day, wrote:
‘I just want to let you know that I and many others are extremely proud of you running in the election. You’ve campaigned like a true leader, which you’ve always been. This must’ve been such a huge experience for you in so many ways, you ran against a gigantic Labor wave!’
Some valuable post-election feedback
It has been a little over two days since the preliminary results were announced on the night of 13 March 2021. The final results are expected to be announced in a few days. In the past two days, many friends and supporters have sent me numerous inspiring and reflective messages.
Tony, a close friend of a friend of mine, had sent the following cryptic message to my friend, Jasmit. Reportedly, Tony – a veteran intellectual in his late sixties of strong Italian background – does not normally vote for anyone but, in this instance, he had voted for me.
‘Yes, I voted for Bill. What do you mean, ‘did not get anything?’ No need to feel sorry! Politics has to be the worst gig around, 100 people with a 100 different ideas to try and get elected, and then they get in and have to bullshit their way around just to survive and not being eaten by bigger sharks. Forget it for me! Politics sucks with a blocked straw!’
Mohsen, a philosopher friend of Iranian descent, a man with a noble heart and an enlightened soul, who volunteered for me on the Election Day at one of the voting centres, sent me the following message:
‘Hi Bill, I would like to thank you for all you have done to bring a new voice to politics. It is amazing to see an authentic advocate to stand out of a silent tribe. The point is not if your message got through or not, the point is going through a wonderful journey and becoming a light for others.’
Hilda, who has been an inspiration and big rock for our family since our arrival in Perth a quarter of a century ago, sent the following inspiration:
‘You did your level best, Bill. I am glad that you are happy with yourself. God has great plans for you and this learning experience is an incredible blessing that will take you to the destination that God has prepared for you. Be strong and courageous.’
Raj, Hilda’s life partner, a human with a golden heart and a fellow engineer, summed it up as follows:
‘Bill, the experience was really good regardless of who won! Anyway, it was a contest between thinking candidates and the candidates backed by the Premier. The voters could not differentiate between the two or understand the need for checks and balances in the parliament! Hope they voted with their conscience!’
On the Election Day, both Hilda and Raj volunteered at two different voting centres. Earlier, during my campaign in January and February this year, they both walked extensively with me and also on their own through the streets of several suburbs, campaigning for me. Later, Raj stood with me constantly during those excruciatingly 3-week long early voting period early voting (24 February to 12 March 2021).
Kim, a close friend and a fellow engineer, reinforced what Raj had earlier said:
‘Bill, good effort; unfortunately, people generally voted along party lines and not so much on the best candidates with best policies and intentions. Labor under Mark McGowan is the flavour of the month, so it was a monumental task to unseat them. Take care and stay strong after you have put in so much effort and walked the talk.’
Ramona, a PhD scholar at a local university, who originally comes from Jammu and volunteered along with her life-partner, Vishal (an engineer), at one of the 12 voting centres in Bateman, whilst entrusting their young child with one of their friends, wrote:
‘Glad to know that you have taken the outcome in a positive way. We are very proud of your and Rekha’s hard work and dedication. Both of you are an inspiration for many, including us. Yes, we are aware of the circumstances created by Labor this time. We wish you good luck for future. We will always stand with you and your vision, and look forward to a great future with a leader like you.’
Mohit, who comes originally from Kashmir and volunteered along with his brother, Rohit, at one of voting centres, wrote:
‘You have described it well, a Labor wave. I too experienced it at the polling booth on Saturday where most of the people blindly wanted to vote for Mark McGowan/Labor party for his tough stance on COVID-19 restrictions and the border closure, ignoring other good candidates. The election result may not be in our favour this time but your efforts and dedication are truly inspiring for all of us. Please do keep inspiring us.’
Suzy Yang, a resident of the Bateman electorate who helped me immensely during my campaign and also organised a large team of volunteers for the Election Day, emailed me the following message:
‘Though the election did not turn out the way we had hoped, we would like to thank you for all the efforts you made to stand for the Bateman electorate. Your passion and dedication to improve the liveability of the community and your kindness are greatly appreciated. On Saturday, when Linda and I were distributing your flyers at the Brentwood primary school voting booth, we met a guy who was volunteering for the Australian Christian Party. He said he had met you before and that you are a very good person. Sunny and Bob also told me a similar story from the Kardinya primary school voting booth where they volunteered for you. Thanks again for you contribution to the community. Please keep up your good work. We do need politicians with integrity like you here in WA.’
The Labor Tsunami — an unprecedented case of emotional voting
Late afternoon on the Election Day, I received the following message from a dear friend and volunteer, CK:
‘Dear Bill, I just left the voting centre. Voters are still trickling in but very slowly. From 7.30 am to 3.00 pm, my observation is that the majority of voters are quite elderly and, based on my conversations with them and judging by their body language, they ALL have already made up their mind. There were a few who told me upfront that they were going to vote for you. Other than that, I doubt the fliers managed to change their minds.’
Obviously, as it turned out in a few hours, most voters had set their eyes firmly on the Labor Premier and the red How to Vote cards of Labor. They could not see anything else, they were fixated on Labor.
The Labor wave, driven primarily by the WA Premier’s towering popularity, was too high and powerful for most of us. The Liberals and most of the minor parties got smashed and virtually decimated. Many good non-Labor candidates got completely obliterated in this unprecedented Labor Tsunami. It was an unusual event, although not totally unexpected but certainly not to such an extent.
The election was driven mainly by people’s fear against Covid-19. Western Australia’s hard-border policy allowed Western Australians to lead relatively normal lives within the borders of state, although many businesses, such as related to tourism and hospitality, were severally impacted. As an icing on the cake, on the back of our mining exports, Western Australia was the only state in the world to post a budget surplus (of nearly $1.7 billion) during the Covid-19 year.
Covid-19 continues to cloud most people’s mind whilst many other real and important issues don’t seem to attract much attention. It could be a myopic reaction from most people but that is the reality. Possibly, the snap 5-day lock-down a few weeks before the election, which may have left a deep impression on the minds of most Western Australian voters, had tipped the scales heavily in favour of the Labor government.
Western Australian Premier McGowan’s 5-day snap lockdown in January 2021 could be compared to Indian Prime Minister’s Modi’s air (surgical) strike on Balakot (in Pakistan) in February 2019 just before the General Election in India, which turned the ride heavily in his favour and brought him an absolute majority in both houses of the Indian parliament. Rest is history.
Bateman, a traditional safe Liberal seat, made history. Like most other seats in WA, it also fell easily to Labor in an unprecedented emotional event. In a personalised addressed letter, posted to electors a few weeks before the election, the WA Premier had asked the electors of Bateman to vote for the Labor candidate. Seemingly, most voters did comply and accede to the Premier’s request. Interestingly, during an unusually long early voting period and on the Election Day (13 March 2021), the Labor candidate and the Labor volunteers asked the voters to vote only in the name of the Premier and the voters did not disappoint them. Other than that, there was not much of a campaign by the wining Labor candidate.
Liberals (the Opposition) virtually got decimated. A Liberal postmortem may reveal numerous reasons why they lost but the reality is that they would not have withstood this Tsunami in any case. It is the first time in the last 88 years (since 1933) that, in Australia, the Leader of Opposition also lost his seat. In Bateman, despite an extraordinary aggressive and relentless campaign right up to the last minute, supported actively by the local Federal minister — over phone and through personalised letters — the young Liberal candidate could not save Bateman from falling to Labor. All other candidates, including myself, seemingly had become virtually obliterated and invisible to most people.
This election produced a blood bath – in a colossal fight between the two elephants – in which all smaller beings were mercilessly trampled. The spectators (voters) cheered on the ‘red’ elephant as it rolled the ‘blue’ elephant. Many smaller beings caught between the two were jeered as they bit the dust.
In Bateman electorate, in my reasonable opinion and common observations about personal efforts put in by several candidates since the beginning of this year, most of the votes received by the red (Labor), blue (Liberal), green (Greens), pale yellow (Australian Christians), purple (No Mandatory Vaccination) and One Nation parties appear to be ‘emotional’ votes, for one reason or the other. Fear psychosis (against Covid-19) worked in favour of the red (Labor) team and the No Mandatory Vaccination Party, whereas the traditional die-hard loyalty factor worked in favour of the blue (Liberal) team. The combined tally of votes received by these six parties comprises the bulk of the total votes cast. The leftover votes were genuinely earned by the remaining candidates. This raises many interesting questions about the election itself and whether its core objectives have been met.
In a nutshell, this election was not about candidates or their policies, howsoever good they were, it was a strong expression of people’s vote of confidence in the Labor Premier and their vote of thanks to him. Most people saw ‘red’ of Covid-19 and they rushed to vote for the ‘red’ party. It did not matter whether one campaigned or not, or how long was your campaign, what really mattered was if you had the Labor label and the Premier’s support. If you were not Labor, you had absolutely no chance.
It was an election of emotions and not necessarily polices or visions. In this election, the minor parties were simply blown away by an unprecedented Labor Tsunami.
Tsunamis arrive suddenly and blow away everything in their paths of destruction but they do not stay there forever. The water recedes after a while. Tsunamis are created in coastal areas due to seismic activity in the sea bed.
I thank all my supporters and volunteers for having faith in me. I shall strive not to let them down. Let us all keep our faith intact and accept the results of this election in a dignified manner. Who knows how future unfolds and what it brings? God bless you all with good health, peace and happiness.
… Bill Koul (16 March 2021, Perth, Western Australia)