The Indian community has now been in the United Kingdom in reasonably large numbers for some five decades. During this time the community rightly focused its attention on the day to day requirements of embedding in British society and ensuring a future for their children. The Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities have done remarkably well, though how they are dispersed within the UK differs and with that, their impact on British politics.
Today the Indian community is seen to be well integrated, well educated, law abiding, hugely contributing in business, hard working, professional, diligent, honest and community spirited. These are but a few examples of the many positive attributes that one may consider when describing Indians in Britain.
Participation within the political arena has not been to the same extent as one would expect of such a vibrant and successful community. In the recent past it has become increasingly clear that there is a danger that the political fraternity might be taking the Indian community for granted, or even worse, ignoring it given it may not always be as loud as other minority ethnic or religious groups.
The politics of Britain has become very complicated. In the past we had two major parties and one smaller one in tow. The two main parties were of course the Conservatives and Labor. However in the past few years there has been a serious re-alignment in British politics. With the advent of the very right of center ‘UK Independence Party’ (UKIP) which has rocked the very foundations of British politics. UKIP have taken large numbers of votes from the Conservatives and is now also beginning to haemorrhage the Labor vote bank. The traditional third party in British politics, the Liberal Democrats (LD) are almost destroyed and will be lucky to hang on to half of their existing MPs.
If that was not enough, in comes the Scottish National Party (SNP) which has risen in significance beyond the realms of all expectations. The SNP, by the most recent polls, will annihilate Labor in Scotland. The politics of coalition which started in 2010 in the UK appears to have now become the norm. The traditional labels of left, right, centre, nationalist, socialist and capitalism are being ignored by the voters. The political fraternity in what is termed the ‘Westminster Village’ have been blind to the earthquake unfolding in front of them. Now they are beginning to realize that life as they knew it, will change for good post May 2015 elections.
In light of the leading two parties losing votes and therefore MPs, it seems they are going to go to extremes in securing whatever they can get. Over the past few years the Labor Party, which has traditionally enjoyed huge support from the Indian community, appears to have lurched very much to the left. Not only that, Labor MPs have been involved in events held at the House of Commons that one can loosely describe as anti Modi and in some cases even anti-Hindu. The Kashmiri Pandits are horrified to find that the leader of the Lab our Party Ed Miliband has not denounced or disassociated himself from one of his senior MP who appears to be supporting a pro-Pakistan and pro-separatist agenda when it comes to Kashmir. In fact on 23/11/2014 whilst addressing a gathering Labor Shadow Minister Shabana Mahmood assured that she will high- light Kashmir issue within the Labor Party and outside in masses to defend the right of self-determination of Kashmiri people, adding “We will jointly struggle for giving Kashmiris a chance to exercise their internationally recognized right of self-determination with the party” and went on to add, “We hope in upcoming general election there would be a good number of Friends of Kashmir Parliamentarians in British Parliament who can effectively support Kashmir cause”.
There is now a serious concern among Indians and in particular the Hindu and Sikh community that the Labor Party might be too closely aligned to the Pakistani Kashmiri Muslim community in order to secure their vote bank. Numbers vary but is seems the future of as many as 30 Labor MPs might be determined by the Pakistani Kashmiri Muslim community vote. If true then this marks a serious change within the Labor Party which increasingly is seen to have become anti-India. By the way, just for the record it was the Labor Party in power in 2002 that placed the diplomatic ban on the then CM Narendra Modi.
In contrast the Conservative Party that has hitherto not enjoyed support from the Indian community has changed remarkably under the leader- ship of the present PM David Cameron. Already he has ensured that Indian MPs are leading on major issues, for example MPs like Priti Patel, Alok Sharma, Paul Uppal, Sailesh Vara and Lord Popat. There are plans for the elections in May to have many more candidates from the Indian community to stand for the Conservatives. If successful don’t be too surprised to find that the Conservatives might well have the high- est number of Indian MPs elected ever. PM Cameron has also been very strategic. When it came to India he removed the diplomatic ban on CM Narendra Modi quickly thus allowing a positive dialogue and interaction to take place. He has already made three trips to India acknowledging that the 21st Century belongs to the East and the UK must ensure it is a positive proactive partner with India. On the home front his Party has been pro Kashmiri Pandits with MPs like Bob Blackman coming out openly stating that Jammu and Kashmir is integral to India and that everyone must stay out of India’s business.
The Hindu community (and the Sikh community) have brought out their respective Manifestos for all the political parties to consider and respond to in order for the community to decide who best deserves their vote. In a tight election, in 2015 every vote is now worth a premium. The Indian vote matters significantly. Below you will find the issues arising out of such a Hindu manifesto. There are always many more issues, but these it seems might help to differentiate friend from foe.
-BY Kapil Dudakia