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How Anjali Appadurai Challenged BC NDP Brass, And They Cancelled Democracy
By Gary Porter
Anjali Appadurai, a 33 year old Tamil woman, was born in India and has lived in BC since she was 6. She describes herself as a climate and social Justice activist. And she is a New Democrat. In the last federal election, she came within a few votes of winning a Vancouver riding. The party brass had written off the riding and offered her no financial or other support. She almost won it anyway by mobilizing a small army of campaigners.
When John Horgan, BC NDP leader and Premier of BC, announced his resignation in 2022, the party went into back room bargaining mode among the senior caucus members and the top party bureaucrats. David Eby, Attorney General, emerged as the annointed candidate and nobody else threw their hat in the ring. When Horgan became leader there was also no contest, and in Ontario, following Andrea Horwath’s poor showing in the Ontario election, the brass was also able to suppress any challenge.
There would be no leadership campaigns or debates, no clash of ideas and strategies and no one was the least bit enthusiastic except the brass who have demonstrated repeatedly and bluntly that they are simply not interested in the views of members.
Then, suddenly, there was excitement. About 100 people responded to a call for a zoom meeting to explore the prospect of a campaign for Anjali Appadurai for party leader and Premier of BC.
Appadurai was young, a militant activist, a hard working New Democrat and had proven herself as an election candidate. Avi Lewis chaired the meeting. Support in the meeting was unanimous, excited and committed. The hurdles set by the brass were huge. First was the $40,000 non refundable deposit to the party. Then there were the nominators. We had to get thousands and they had to be from all over the province including the northern, interior and wilderness areas. Anjali had to complete a long extremely detailed application and provide access codes to all social media accounts. At the meeting we did a once round to see who could contribute the maximum $1300 plus dollars to Anjali’s campaign. We raised the entire $40,000 in that first meeting. After a campaign of less than 4 weeks the party brass were desperate to stop Appadurai. The party membership had been allowed to fall to 11,000. David Eby seems to have brought in about 6500 new members. But the Appadurai insurgency had recruited 13,000 new members with time left to go. It was apparent to everyone that a young female person of colour who was opposed to climate change, fossil fuels and pipelines and who supported indigenous rights and mass mobilizations was going to win. Eby complained about being forced to campaign at all for the leader position and out going Premier Horgan referred the Appadurai campaign as “thugs”. The Eby campaign raised a complaint with the Party’s Election Coordinator, Elizabeth Cull, a former NDP cabinet minister and currently a Senior Associate with Hills Knowlton. Hills knowlton lists several oil majors on its client list. The Eby campaign alleged the 13,000 new members supporting Anjali could not all be legitimate. Major news outlets began spreading the rumor that the Appadurai campaign was an attempted Green Party take over. They were as opposed to Anjali as the NDP brass because to win, was to become Premier. Party staff phoned thousands of new members accusing them of being Green Party supporters, conspirators and more. Some had been Green Party members which should have been welcomed, not berated and accused of skullduggery. Cull presented a report based on her “investigation”. She accused Anjali of conspiring with Dogwood, a BC anti climate change campaigning organization to recruit new NDP members. There is no doubt Dogwood members were active in Anjali’s campaign, but so what?. Cull’s recommendation was not a slap on the wrist, nor a fine. It was disqualification of Appadurai as a candidate. The vote was held on the BC NDP Executive, not the Provincial Council, which is the highest body between conventions. Anjali Appadurai was not allowed to speak, nor even to submit a response to the Cull report which was filled with innuendo and insinuation but little else. The executive was faced with staff and parliamentarians who imparted a strong sense of urgency to act decisively against what they falsely presented as an existential threat to the party. It was a desperate, anti democratic and possibly unlawful act. They simply could not allow a democratic election. The oil, gas, logging and real estate empires would not allow it.
This insurgency was very fast and powerful and has shaken the party bureaucracy to its roots. The brass will respond by clamping down on what traces of democracy still exist in the party and in so doing start the count down to new and more powerful rebellions.