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Will Indian diaspora rally behind Rishi Sunak in UK elections?

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has appealed to conservative-leaning voters in a last-ditch effort to garner support for the Conservative Party in the upcoming election, warning against a potential overwhelming majority for the Labour Party. Sunak’s appeal comes amidst polling showing a substantial lead for Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, which has centered its campaign on the call for change after 14 years under Conservative governance.

The larger picture:

  • Their time in office has been defined by significant events such as Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the resulting challenges with rising living costs.
  • Moreover, Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party has been attracting support from conservative voters unhappy with the performance of the Conservative government.
  • This development poses a risk of dividing the conservative electorate, potentially smoothing the way for Labour to achieve a clear victory.

What they’re saying:

  • At a recent rally, Sunak emphasized the risks of a Labour-dominated government: “Once you’ve given Labour a blank check, you won’t be able to get it back, and that means that your taxes are going up… it’s in their DNA.”
  • Meanwhile, Farage highlighted the growth of Reform UK, noting, “It is humbling but also very telling that they are prepared to back their faith in Reform UK with hard-earned cash.”
  • “A vote for Labour is a vote for stability — economic and political,” Starmer said.

Why it matters:

  • The upcoming election is critical for the UK’s future direction, with significant implications for the economy, immigration policies, healthcare, and environmental commitments.
  • The Conservative Party’s handling of recent crises, including economic stagnation and public service issues, has been a central point of contention. Sunak’s leadership and the party’s track record are under intense scrutiny as voters head to the polls.

Diaspora shifts as Sunak’s star fades:

  • Once a poster boy for the Indian community in UK, Sunak now faces growing disenchantment from this demographic, which makes up about 2.5 per cent of the country’s population.
  • As per a South China Morning Post report, Ashwin Krishnaswamy, a UK-based technology investor and trustee of the Bridge India charity, believes that the Indian diaspora is aligning with the sentiment of an anti-Tory wave, saying, “People are saying that maybe it’s time to bring a new government.”
  • Priyajit Debsarkar, a London-based Indian author, points out that the Conservative Party’s numerous leadership changes in the past have left people questioning the guarantee of Sunak’s tenure.
  • While Labour traditionally enjoyed stronger support among British Indians, this has weakened over the years as a new breed of richer and well-educated diaspora identified more with the Conservatives, the SCMP report said. However, this trend was expected to accelerate under Sunak, but as Debsarkar puts it, “a lot of water has now flowed between the Thames and the English Channel, so even the Indian diaspora has had second thoughts.”

What next:

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  • On Thursday, voters across the UK will elect all 650 members of the House of Commons. The election’s outcome could lead to a centre-left Labour government, representing a significant shift in Britain’s political landscape.
  • This change would come amidst a broader European trend where several countries are experiencing right-wing gains, adding to the election’s geopolitical significance.

(With TOI inputs)

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