Kenya’s Asian community has largely remained apolitical for many years, choosing instead to remain in business.
But with the ever dynamic politics of the country, a new wind of change is blowing, especially in Meru’s North Imenti Constituency.
The constituency has two Asians of Kenyan origin vying for the parliamentary seat, the incumbent Rahim Dawood of Jubilee Party and Rajesh Hirani of National Vision Party.
Others are former MP Silas Muriuki (Mazingira Green Party), Kenneth Muriuki (Narc-Kenya), Beatrice Karwitha (Maendeleo Chap Chap) and independent candidates Tedd Rimbere, Douglas Mwiti, Isaack Kinoti, Paul Murungah and Patrick Mwongera.
The aspirants are representative of the cosmopolitan nature of the constituency and range from business people, lawyers, teachers and politicians, who hope they will persuade the electorate to vote for them.
The conclusion of the nomination has ushered in another phase of a bruising political battle and evidently, all aspirants in the constituency have been trying to resonate with the concerns of their electorate.
Analysts believe that the interest of the Asian candidates to lead the constituency is a beacon of the region’s political progression.
Mr Dawood’s critics claim his performance is unsatisfactory and are scheming to give someone else a chance.
An indefatigable supporter of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, Mr Dawood won on an Alliance Party of Kenya after a blistering campaign in the euphoria of 2013 General Election.
The former councillor garnered 26,871 beating the then MP, Mr Muriuki, who polled 24,185.
He is facing his toughest political test and is banking his re-election on his development record in the education and infrastructure sectors.
Mr Dawood also believes that his political experience and the support he enjoys from Jubilee Party, which wields substantial influence in the area — gives him an edge.
He credits his leadership for the ongoing tarmacking of the Cocacola-Mpuri-Katheri, Mate (which had stalled) and Meru bypass roads.
The legislator also cites street lighting projects and transformer installation as well single-handedly financing the construction of houses for the elderly at Mulanthakari.
Youth centres at Kinoru, Kianjuri, Giaki and Gachanka areas are also his other major projects.
The MP has shrugged off claims of poor performance by campaigning defending his National Government Constituency Development Fund projects.
“Since 2013, we have received about Sh340 million through the CDF. Those spreading propaganda should prove what I have not done,” he told the Nation in an interview.
But making a strong claim to the seat is Mr Hirani, a newcomer in politics who has continued punching holes in Mr Dawood’s leadership.
He says that he is the ideal choice for those looking for fresh leadership and has resorted to door-to-door campaigns to endear himself to the voters.
“My strategy is to reach out to the people at the grassroots in the entire constituency. I have met close to 3,000 families in the constituency. The reception has been overwhelming and they like my development manifesto,” he said.
He has a good relationship with some well-placed individuals who have over the years been supportive of him in matters involving development.
Using his own resources, he has educated pupils and students from poor backgrounds and bought water tanks for women groups.
His work caught the attention of Joyful Women Organisation (Joywo).
“I have been supporting Joywo through many initiatives not only in Meru but across the country. I realised I could not do much in helping people as a businessman but a politician by contributing to policy making,” the Meru based businessman said.