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Indian ‘Yogi’ Wins an Election in Japan

The first Indian ever to win an election in Japan decided to take up the cause after serving curry to locals affected in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters.

by Shamani Joshi
24 April 2019, 1:31pm

Yogendra Puranik (the one in the purple jacket) is the first Indian to win an election in Japan. Photo: Yogendra Puranik / Facebook

While the Indian Yogi we usually hear about is out there calling Muslims a “green virus” and waxing lyrical about the greatness of gau mata (cow mother), there’s an Indian-origin Japanese politician who also goes by the name ‘Yogi’, and he just became the very first Indian to win an election in Japan.

41-year-old Yogendra Puranik from Pune won a seat in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward assembly, securing 6,477 votes, the fifth highest of the 2,26,561 valid ballots cast, in the April 21 poll, part of the unified local elections held in Japan.

Backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, this Yogi is on a mission to "to be a bridge between Japanese and foreigners.”

"Japan is neat and everyone was kind," says Yogi, talking about his early experiences of visiting Japan as a student in 1997 and going back in 2001 to work as an engineer before finally settling there in 2005.

It was while helping Japanese relief efforts following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that Yogi, who had begun visiting affected areas on weekends to cook curry with Indian friends from Edogawa Ward to share with victims, got chatting with Japanese locals and began to feel a strong sense of affinity towards the nation. He became a Japanese citizen the following year and began dabbling in politics because he felt the need for change that went beyond volunteering activities. And the rest, as they say, is history. "I want to be an assemblyman who can connect everyone regardless of nationality, age, or even disabilities, through my 20 years of living in Japan," said Yogi.

His manifesto promises to look into the non-availability of crèche for babies, having an entertainment space and vocational training for breastfeeding mothers, and helping non-local children get into government schools.

While over 34,000 Indians reside in Japan, Edogawa Ward has the highest number of Indian residents among Tokyo's 23 wards with approximately 4,300 Indian nationals registered, accounting for more than 10 percent of Indians living in Japan.

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