From Cong to Aus parliament: Story of a Bengalurean

From Cong to Aus parliament: Story of a Bengalurean

Shahyaz Yezdi Mubarakai (left) and Kevin Michel, Indian-born MLAs in the Western Australian Parliament, in conversation with a delegation of Indian journalists. Credit: DH Photo/Furquan Moharkan

Within 20 years of moving to Western Australia, Kevin Joseph Jude Michel, a graduate of BMS College of Engineering, is making it big in that country.

Despite only 633 people of Indian ancestry living in his constituency of Pillbara, Michel has managed to make his mark in Australian politics. “I used Indian methods in campaigning. I went door to door,” Michel told DH. Despite the odds against him, Michel's focus on employment issues and high mortgages helped him draw voters.

Exactly 19 years after he moved there, Michel defeated Brendon Grylls, the then head of the National Party of Western Australia, in March 2017. Prior to his defeat, Grylls was an MLA in the Western Australian Parliament from Pillbara for 16 years.

The electorate of Pilbara is located in the mining and pastoral region and includes the City of Karratha, the Shire of East Pilbara and the Town of Port Hedland. Indian origin people make up a mere 1.4% of the constituency’s 48,079 population, significantly lower than 2.8% in the whole of Western Australia. According to Michel, his constituency contributes over 45% to the Australian GDP, thanks to its mining reserves.

Michel started his studies at Railway High School in Golden Rock, Tiruchirappalli, where he was born. He was there till Grade 3 and then moved to a private school called Campion Anglo Indian High School in the same city.

After 10th grade, Michel moved to Bengaluru with his uncle and aunt, to begin university studies at St. Aloysius College.

In fact, his association with Bengaluru was evident from his inaugural speech last year. “After I finished my year 10 at Campion Anglo Indian High School, I went to another city in India called Bengaluru, to continue with my education," he had said. "Bengaluru was a beautiful and elegant English colony for retired English officers in the armed forces who wanted to spend the rest of their lives in India. Bengaluru was also called the 'Garden City of India' and is now the 'Silicon Valley of India'.”

Michel, who studied mechanical engineering from BMS-CE in Basavangudi, moved to Australia in 1990 and then migrated to Western Australia in May 1998. “It was at university that I was introduced to politics. I was part of the Congress youth party. I then joined the Janata youth party until I left India in 1990. After university, I started a diploma course in air conditioning and refrigeration at a private college in Bengaluru. I worked at Voltas, India’s largest airconditioning company, and then moved to Carrier, who are pioneers in the industry,” said Michel.

Apart from Michel, Western Australia has another Indian-born representative. Shahyaz Yezdi Mubarakai of Jandakot Constituency hails from a farming family in the district of Dahanu, 130 kilometres north of Mumbai. Mubarakai says that thanks to his family, he is still actively involved in chikoo farming in India.