Punekar Yogendra Puranik to contest local elections in Japan
The election manifesto in the hands of a 41-year-old Punekar contains the following: non availability of crèche for babies; having a place of entertainment or vocational training for breast-feeding mothers; and non-local children availing of government schools.
“These are issues that are really important to voters here,” says Yogendra Puranik, or Yogi, as he is known in the place where he is standing for elections; which is the Edogawa municipal corporation in Tokyo, Japan.
At a time when India’s 2019 Lok Sabha elections is well underway and has engulfed the nation and city of Pune, Yogi is likely the first Indian to contest municipal elections in Japan, but certainly the first Puneite.
Edogawa municipal corporation votes on April 21, 2019, and Yogi is no flash in the pan in terms of being a viable candidate to vote for.
Originally from Pune, Yogi went to Japan to pursue higher studies in 1997 and worked with various IT companies there, his last job being with Mizuho Bank, after which, he quit to join politics; this was 10 years ago. Puranik has lived in Japan for 20 years, of which he has been a resident of Edogawa for 15 years.
Yogi is contesting the elections as a member of the Constituent Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), a major opposition party in the country.
There are 23 municipal corporations in Japan and in Edogawa, 4,500 Indians live, says Yogi, adding, “I felt that there were social issues which could not be solved just through volunteer activities.”
CDP is the largest opposition party, which came to power in 2011, but lost in the subsequent elections.
“The person heading this party, Yukio Edano, is very intelligent and integrated, and when the sitting MP Akihiro Hatsushika came to me with a proposal, I accepted, after discussing with my support team,” says Yogi, who is joined in his campaign by his strongest supporters, his mother and son.
Puranik is presently busy campaigning, urging residents to vote by making speeches at key railway stations and communities.
When asked about how different elections there are from India, he says, “Japanese are very systematic, strict rules are followed by all parties and they behave in a very gentlemanly manner. The only drawback is a lot of paper work, but there is great support from the election commission here.”
Puranik aspires to stand for mayor in the next elections.
Fidel Technologies president, Sunil Kulkarni, also from Pune and a resident of Japan says, “This is historic, that an Indian has decided to plunge into local politics in Japan. It is indeed a welcome move and will open many doors to fellow Indians from a long-term perspective.”
Mai Watanabe Pendse, a Japanse teacher working at an IT company in Pune, says, “It is wonderful news that Yogendrasan, being an Indian, is fighting for elections in Japan. He will hopefully bring change for many foreigners living in Japan who find it difficul with language barriers.”
Kulkarni believes Yogi’s presence will also enable the furthering of Indo-Japan ties.
“Yogendra has studied in Japan, has worked in IT and financial sectors, stayed in Japan for more than 15 years and thereby has a broader view of Japan. We need more dialogue between Japan and India and he has the necessary broader perspective that he can bring with him. This is definitely a plus for India.”