Ancestral ties: India avidly watching British leadership race

Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Rishi Sunak speaks to the media at an event to launch his campaign to be the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister, in London, Britain, July 12, 2022. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

MUMBAI — Half a world away from the political drama in London, many Indians are closely following the twists and turns of who replaces Boris Johnson as British prime minister, curious to see how two candidates with Indian ancestry fare.

Rishi Sunak, the bookmakers’ favorite to prevail, and Suella Braverman are campaigning for the Conservative party leadership and have made reference to the opportunities Britain gave members of minorities like them.

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If either were to win the race for the premiership, they would be the first prime minister of Indian origin in the United Kingdom.

In both cases, their Indian families migrated to Britain in the 1960s in search of better lives. Britain ruled India for about 200 years before the South Asian country gained independence in 1947 after a prolonged freedom struggle.

“It will be a great feeling to see an Indian as the PM of a country which very ruthlessly ruled India for a very long time!” said a Twitter user named Emon Mukherjee.

There are around 1.4 million Indians in Britain, making them its single largest ethnic minority, and the two countries enjoy friendly relations. Bilateral trade stood at 21.5 billion pounds ($25.55 billion) in 2020-21.

Leading Indian industrialist Anand Mahindra joined a steady stream of social media reaction to the possibility of a British prime minister with Indian heritage.

He shared a digitally altered photograph of 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s official residence, with its famous black door adorned with marigolds and mango leaves, symbols of an auspicious beginning in the Hindu religion.