I am not British and certainly not a member of the Conservative Party, but I strongly root for Rishi Sunak. I think Britain would be a better place with the articulate, Indian-origin Sunak as its leader.
At a time when many parts of the world cowering inward under the heavy cast of identity politics, which obviously gives rise to the proliferation of racism and discrimination, electing Sunak as a Prime Minster of one of the world’s oldest democracies, will be definitely a step forward.
The British Parliament is considered by historians as one of ‘the oldest continuous representative assemblies in the world’. It was first set up in later years of the 15th century, exercising many of the modern parliamentary functions, particularly passing legislations.
For centuries, the British democracy retained its special characteristics because of its monarchial system. But its democratic system remains today one of the most dynamic. In recent years, it has become an inclusive system where members of the ethnic, racial and religious minorities are not only accepted in politics but went on to hold high offices in government.
In the current government of Boris Johnson, several key posts were held by members of the minorities. Sunak, before his resignation on July 5, served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, traditionally the second in command in the government — the second most powerful person British politics. He was succeeded by another member of the minorities, Baghdad-born, Iraqi- British politician Nadhim Zahawi, who served in the past two years as Secretary of State for Education.
Sunak today leads the race to replace Boris Johnson as Tory leader and Prime Minster. He came on top in the first two primary rounds of voting. There is another round coming up soon. On September 5, the party members will choose from the top two candidates. In most polls, Sunak projects a strong and competent leader, favoured by the majority of the party members.
The 42-year-old Rishi Sunak was born and raised in Southampton to Indian parents who migrated to Britain in the early 1960s. His family traces its origins to Punjab. He is married to the daughter of Indian tech billionaire N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder of Indian outsourcing giant Infosys.
Britain meanwhile occupied and ruled India for two hundred years, until 1947 when India won its independence. There are at least 1.4 million Indians in Britain today, the largest ethnic minority in the country. And they are mostly doing very well. Sunak is doing very well too, money wise. He is one of Britain’s richest politicians.
His rise to the national politics began in 2015 when he won the parliamentary seat for Richmond (Yorks). He won two more elections after that for the same district. After Boris Johnson was elected Prime Minister in 2019, he chose Sunak to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury. A year later, Sunak replaced Sajid Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
As chancellor, he was the chief player in the economic battle against Covid-19. He did well despite some of the criticism, from within his own party, that his policies leant towards those of the rival Labour Party, especially his decision to raise taxes to fund the financial stimulus introduced to help business and pay those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
In the last contenders’ debate, he stood tall, defending those policies. I liked the way he defended the record of the Boris Johnson government, although this approach seems somewhat politically incorrect these days because of the unpopularity of Johnson after the series of scandals, especially ‘Partygate’. Polls published by the Telegraph and Evening Standard newspapers after the debate put Sunak in the lead, comfortably.
He may still lose the contest though, which I hope not. Many things could happen in two months. Nevertheless, his performance so far and the public reaction to it shows for one the maturity of the British democracy. But in the wider context, it shows the maturity of the political spectrum in Britain and the society in general.
The rise of Sunak thus far is a British lesson to other societies in the Western hemisphere, places such as the United States, France, the Netherlands, Sweden among others, where politics have become an instrument of social division and the spread of hate. Thus, the world needs a Sunak victory, not because of his Indian origin. But because of his leadership skills, his decision- making abilities and charisma.
These qualities shouldn’t be allowed to be discarded because Sunak isn’t white. With its governing process today in shambles, God knows Britain is dire need of those qualities today. But the global need is a more urgent one.
A Sunak victory may very well be the shock therapy for inward-looking societies, Trumpism and the propagators of identity politics need to snap out of this vicious cycle of hate. For all this, and because he is such as handsome charismatic fella, I root for Rishi Sunak.