India, Politics, UK

Rishi Sunak as British PM Hopeful: What Will the Indian Connection Mean?

The Daily Torygraph recently debated that the recent leadership contest proves that the Conservative party is genuinely inclusive. The basis for the claim was that the leadership candidate list featured female candidates, veterans as well as candidates from ethnic minorities. I’d argue that the word inclusivity does not apply to the Conservative party, as thanks to them, there was a nearly 10,000 times rise in food banks in the last decade. At the same time, Jacob Rees-Mogg, an ardent Brexiteer, had a truckload of food delivered from France worth over £20,000 for a party. The only trait that connects all Tory MPs is their moral bankruptcy and lack of compassion, or, put in one word, shithousery. However, while it’s pointless to say how useless the Tory party MPs are, this is about Rishi Sunak and the representation of ethnic minorities at the top leadership team.

Of course, an ethnic minority member becoming PM will encourage many individuals who are either misrepresented or feel like they are. UK has not had a minority PM, and looking from one perspective, this can become a moment that broke the glass ceiling. It might give youngsters hope and inspiration that they can achieve anything they want to. Newspapers in India reported how many Indians are keenly watching the developments in the UK. Rishi Sunak becoming the PM would definitely make headlines in India, with an expected life history with a bullet point list of his achievements. Expectations amongst Indian immigrants in Britain are also similar, and they want Sunak to become the PM more due to his Indian heritage than his policies.

It’s the policies where the problem lies, as well as in his background. Needless to say, the Conservative party have definitely leant towards right-wing populism in recent years, and sympathisers for the right-wing government in India led by Narendra Modi became de facto backers for Sunak. Beyond the right-wing supporters, looking from a socioeconomic perspective, upper and middle-class Indians living in Britain will also favour Sunak. However, beyond these groups of people with vested interests, the working class, blue or white collar people of Indian descent also want Sunak, a private school-educated investment banker whose net worth is over £750million. For me, this is baffling.

It may seem it’s easy for me not to support Rishi Sunak because of political prejudices and my preference for that over the origin. However, it doesn’t need reminding that being Indian doesn’t give a special privilege if someone of Indian origin becomes a British PM. Neither does that heal centuries of hurt inflicted by colonial rule. So, no, I don’t understand why this mad rush amongst the Indians to back Sunak. To show solidarity with my Indian origin, I’d rather cheer for the Indian athletes at the Commonwealth games than root for another Harrow head boy to lead the UK. I’m sure his policies will be no less hideous than his predecessor Johnson and looking from that perspective, his ethnic origin will have no bearing on the decisions he will make as the PM.

Coming to policies, now that his lead has dwindled a bit, he announced two policies to win over the members. First, he said he’ll fine all patients who don’t attend an NHS GP appointment. Noted that there is a loss of time, but is that the biggest drain on Britain’s resources? Who will be at the receiving end of these stern measures? Of course, the working class and people needing the welfare state the most, whom the Tories lovingly called scroungers. It’s like beating a dead horse. What about fining the tax evaders? He won’t have to look far; there’s one he lives with. Amongst the sufferers, there will be many people of Indian origin; yet Sunak becoming the PM would be worth celebrating and distributing sweets for them.

The other policy he proposed is far more disturbing. He suggested if he became the PM, he’d add vilification of the UK as extremism. There’s nothing wrong with a statement like that, especially where people are overly nationalist and populist sentiments occasionally fan the fire. However, a country like the UK with a questionable past will have a lot to criticise and brushing all such criticisms as vilification only means his views on dissent. It also questions his so-called Indian-ness. India is one of the worst sufferers of colonial rule. He either accepts the truth about the damages it caused or denies it and argues that the net impact of British rule in India was positive. Rather than tackling more burning issues like energy prices, he chose a cheap populist stand. Needless to say, this stance was to appease the non-minority member base, to appear he’s one of them, a true admirer of the land of hope and glory. It showed the hollowness of his persona and the meaninglessness of the bubble of hope it created amongst the Indians in the UK and India.

Rishi Sunak is not an Indian. He was born in the UK. His only connection to India is his name and his religion. And millions that he inherited through his father-in-law’s business in India. For his own benefit, he wants to highlight his non-existent Indian-ness. His loyalty lies with the Tory party. All he cares about is his own political career. Like all Tory MPs, his brand of politics doesn’t even represent the interests of the British people, let alone any specific group of minorities. The only minority he’d represent is the super-rich who pour money into Tory party funds. So, for merely symbolic representation of British Indian minorities, Sunak is a terrible example, and the dangers of identity politics have been well documented. I, for one, won’t feel anything if Sunak wins the leadership contest despite the common Indian roots.