By: Gurbir Singh
Over a hundred selfie-crazy Hamiltonian fans literally mobbed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when she walked through Te Awa mall (The Base) this afternoon.
Dozens of her eager fans lined in the precincts of the mall at least an hour before the Labour leader’s expected arrival time of 12.30pm.
There was immediate hustle-bustle as waiting crowds saw through the glass doors, the Prime Minister alighting from her grey-coloured campaign van. She was soon joined by Jamie Strange and Dr Gaurav Sharma, the two local Labour contenders who are vying to unseat the Hamilton East and West current National holders, David Bennett and Tim Macindoe.
At the subsequent media meet, NewsViews asked PM Ardern if judging by the overwhelming response she had today received in Hamilton, how optimistic she was that at least one MP (from Labour) would be elected?
To this the PM replied, “I’m optimistic because of the hard work our candidates are doing, so it’s not just about people showing up to say ‘hello’, its about seeing the work they have done consistently.”
The first, and perhaps one of the biggest fans of the day to welcome Ardern, was an excited 4-years-old, Scarlett.
“This is Scarlett, she’s your biggest fan,” her mum told Ardern.
Prime Minister hugged Scarlett and crouched down several minutes to exchange pleasantries with her and her mum as cameras clicked and rolled.
It was hardly a walk- through for the PM and her entourage as selfie crazy fans literally ‘gheraoed’ her for nearly 20-odd minutes just inside the entrance, before she could inch her way ahead.
People from all walks of life, ethnicity and age groups were there, cell phones ready in hand to click themselves with this popular leader.
There were mums holding little infants in laps-some crying unable to bear the noises around, dads barely able to manage curious toddlers in prams.
There were several others who seized the opportunity as election time was perhaps the only time they could get a closer look of their world famous prime minister who missed this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
There was jostling and pushing also. Some fans just clicked themselves with their back towards the PM, hoping it was a good click as she obligingly exchanged word or two with other gathered Hamiltonians.
Some curious lunch-time workers and shoppers watched from the upper level as PM’s security made way for her to progress at a snail’s pace through the mall.
Some PM fans were keen to show framed photos, and one die-hard fan, Mike Anderson brought with him the original of The Standard newspaper dated, September 4, 1935, headlined “Labour achieved a splendid victory”. He was hoping for a similar election result this year.
While most of those who had gathered today felt their wait was worthwhile, a few were, however, left disappointed.
One of them was a young man, Preet Kamal Singh with his newly- wedded wife.
As NewsViews watched, the duo tried several times to reach near the PM for a photograph, and at one time succeeded also, but failed to get her attention, even after what appeared to be a polite request.
“I’m a bit disappointed,” Preet Kamal later told NewsViews.
“But I don’t blame her, it’s the swelling-size of the crowd and she understandably cannot please everyone,” he added.
When asked if he was a Labour supporter, he smiled, “actually, I’m currently on a work visa, I don’t have voting rights.”
One family of five, including visiting aged parents, had also gathered to have a close glimpse of the leader as “in India, you can never even imagine to be in close proximity of any political leader.”
Later, Ardern left the venue through the basement, much to the disappointment of several dozens of fans who were still eagerly waiting and missed the opportunity for selfies with her.
That opportunity, however, may come for them only during the next electioneering campaign in three years time.