OPINION | UK\u2019s Hindu PM: What it means for India and Indians!
The first British Indian and first non-White Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, will take oath as PM in London on October 28. On Tuesday, King Charles III invited Sunak to form his government.
At 42, he is the youngest British Prime Minister in the last 210 years. Persons of Indian Origin across the world are elated over Sunak taking over as the PM of United Kingdom. Sunak was born in Britain in 1980, had his education in UK, his identity is British, and so are his values. But his religion is Hindu, and he is Britain’s first Hindu Prime Minister. He worships cow as mother, and celebrates Hindu festivals like Diwali, Holi and Janmashtami. Sunak’s grandparents hail from Gujranwala of undivided Punjab. They went to Kenya and settled down, and in the Sixties, his parents went to United Kingdom and settled there.
An idol of Lord Ganesha adorns his desk, and on his wrist, he wears a ‘kalaava’ (sacred Hindu thread). Sunak was married to a Hindu woman, Akshata, daughter of Infosys founder N. R. Narayana Murthy. Their family follows Sanatan Hindu values.
No non-Christian ever became a prime minister in Britain’s 300-year-old democratic history. This fact is important because Britain has a dominant 80 per cent Christian population. Sunak, an investment banker and hedge fund partner, joined British politics seven years ago, and his rise is truly astounding. He was elected leader of Conservative Party on Monday following Liz Truss announcing her resignation. On Tuesday, after Liz Truss handed over her resignation to the King, Sunak went to Buckingham Palace, where the King invited him to form a new government.
In India, Rishi Sunak is known as the son-in-law of Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys. Murthy’s daughter Akshata is twice richer than her husband, because she owns one per cent of Infosys shares, apart from holdings in several other big companies. She runs two companies with the help of her brother Rohan Murthy.
According to a rough estimate, Akshata has 430 million pounds (nearly 5,000 crore Rs) worth assets. It was once claimed that Akshata is richer than the late Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away recently. Rishi Sunak struggled in his early life. He worked as a hotel waiter, sold medicines on streets, but now runs his own company. He owns nearly 200 million pounds (roughly Rs 2,000 crore) worth assets.
Sunak’s grandparents may have left India 87 years ago, but their family still imbibes Hindu culture and traditions. Rishi Sunak worships cow as mother, and the family celebrates Diwali and Janmashtami every year. When he first became MP, he took the oath by putting his hand on Bhagvad Geeta. His parents settled in Southampton. In an interview, Sunak disclosed how his family used to visit temple every week. He met his wife Akshata Murthy while studying in Stanford University of USA. He revealed that Narayana Murthy did not initially like Rishi, but later agreed to the marriage, which took place in 2009. The couple has two daughters, Krishma and Anushka.
In one interview, Rishi Sunak said, “Yes, I am a British citizen, but my religion is Hinduism. My religious and cultural heritage is in India. I can proudly say that I am a Hindu and being a Hindu is my identity.” On Monday, Rishi Sunak celebrated Diwali at home by lighting ‘diyas’ outside his home. On Janmashtami this year, Rishi, with his wife, offered prayers to a cow.
Rishi Sunak is not the first Person of Indian Origin to become prime minister of a country. Prithvirajsing Roopan, President of Mauritius and Pravind Jugnath, Prime Minister of Mauritius are of Indian origin. The President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad ‘Chan’ Santokhi is also of Indian origin. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the President of Guyana, and the prime minister of Portugal Antonia Costa have also roots in India. Now that Rishi Sunak is the prime minister of UK, it is a matter of pride for all Indians. But it will be incorrect to expect that Sunak will work in India’s interests. He is a British citizen and for him the interests of his country are supreme.
We can only expect that Rishi Sunak will not overlook India’s interests. As far as being a Hindu is concerned, it must be noted that his family, despite leaving India three generations ago, has not deserted Hindu religion, customs and culture. They believe in Hindutva, abstain from liquor, worship cows, and celebrate Holi and Diwali. Rishi Sunak did not become the Prime Minister, because he is a Hindu, he attained this powerful democratic position by dint of his labour, his merit and his loyalty to Britain.
On Tuesday, several opposition leaders in India made some jibes after Sunak became the PM. Some of them asked, if a person from Hindu minority can become PM of UK, which has 80 per cent Christian population, when will India have a Muslim prime minister? Former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Proud moment that UK will have its first Indian origin PM. While all of India rightly celebrates, it would serve us well to remember that while UK has accepted an ethnic minority member as its PM, we are still shackled by divisive & discriminatory laws like NRC & CAA.
Former AAP leader and Hindi poet Kumar Vishwas in his tweet, reacted to Mehbooba: “Yes, it’s true, Bua. India has progressed under the leadership of so many minority Indians like Dr Zakir Husain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Dr Manmohan Singh and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Now you should start efforts for making somebody the CM of Jammu and Kashmir from a community which has been forcibly converted into a minority.
Since the matter related to Muslims, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi reacted by saying, “Inshallah, it is my dream that a daughter wearing ‘hijab’(veil) should become the Prime Minister of India, even if I am alive or not. We shall succeed, we shall not sit idle, and we will continue with our efforts. Inshallah, we will surely succeed.
Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram tweeted: “First Kamala Harris, now Rishi Sunak. The people of the US and the UK have embraced the non-majority citizens of their countries and elected them to high office in government. I think there is a lesson to be learned by India and the parties that practise majoritarianism.”
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor told an interviewer: “Rise of an Indian origin leader to the post of prime minister with just 7 years of experience as MP is extraordinary. Indian can learn a lot from this….. I would like to see the Hindutvavadis of the BJP to being prepared to embrace somebody who comes from a different ethnicity….When it comes to real power, we’ve had Prime Ministership held only by Hindus and only by one exception being Sikh."
Tharoor said, “I have only one question. There is not a single Muslim BJP MP in Parliament. This is surprising. It never happened before. Can you believe BJP will support any non-Hindu for the post of PM? Or, even for the post of CM, will it ever support a Muslim or a Christian? I don’t think so. I remember, when Sonia Gandhi’s name was proposed for PM after 2004 elections, how BJP reacted. BJP leaders staged dharna outside Parliament. I want to tell BJP to look at Rishi Sunak and learn something,”
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad replied to Tharoor, Mehbooba Mufti and Owaisi. He said, “Those who are saying that BJP kept minorities away from highest post, have probably forgotten that it was BJP will made APJ Abdul Kalam the President of India.” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said, “It is not necessary to tell what’s happening with minorities in the last eight years.
It will be incorrect to say that in India minorities never reached the top, and a Hindu became PM in Britain. Even today, we have a woman, and that too, from a tribal family, as our President. In the past, we had Dr Zakir Husain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, APJ Abdul Kalam and Giani Zail Singh as presidents. They were all from minorities. There have been so many Muslims who adorned the posts of Chief Justice of India and the posts of Governors. On this issue, we should not compare India with other countries.
Those who are trying to make comparisons, had full freedom for doing so, but Congress leaders have probably forgotten that Dr Manmohan Singh remained Prime Minister for ten years during Congress-led UPA rule. As far as Mehbooba Mufti is concerned, let me say, there are Hindu and Sikh minorities in Jammu and Kashmir. Can she announce that her party will make somebody from the minorities as Chief Minister?
There is no need to try and score brownie points. Even Owaisi chipped in saying, his dream is to see a Muslim woman, wearing veil, become India’s PM. He is trying to pamper his own vote bank. The main motive behind making such jibes is to project Narendra Modi as anti-Muslim and embarrass him.
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