In November 2015, while addressing a gathering of 60,000 Indians at London’s Wembley stadium, David Cameron, the then British Prime Minister, had famously remarked that it wouldn’t be very long before 10 Downing Street had a British-Indian PM. He was on the podium alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and his statement, quite unsurprisingly, had gone down very well with the audience. It wasn’t the first time however that Mr Cameron had made such a bold forecast. Sometime in 2012, two years into his premiership, he’d said that his Conservative Party would be the first in Britain to have a Prime Minister of Indian origin. “We were the first party to have a woman Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher and there’s been a second one since in Theresa May), we were the first party to have a Jewish Prime Minister in (Benjamin) Disraeli, and when I look at the talent behind me, I think we are going to be the first party to have a British Indian Prime Minister,” he’d said.
Historically, though, persons of Indian origin (PIOs) in the United Kingdom have felt more at home with the Labour Party. But there are signs that the trend is changing. One of the reasons could be a miscalculated political stand that may have hurt Indian sentiments. When the BJP Government decided to abruptly end Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy in 2019, the Labour Party hastened to pass an emergency motion calling for international observers in the state, thereby decrying the Modi Government’s move. It didn’t go down well with a large section of Indians who, needless to add, must have felt very let down by the party they’d traditionally supported. After all, Kashmir is a sensitive issue that has made Indians wear their patriotism on their sleeves since India’s partition in 1947.
An article in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper in November 2021 also opined in the direction of an Indian ascendancy in politics. “If there is a prime minister-in-waiting poised to entice British Indian voters, our survey suggests it is the chancellor, Rishi Sunak,” it had announced. Mr Sunak, son-in-law of Infosys Founder Narayana Murthy, is, of course, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer in the British Government. The survey by the newspaper was carried out on 800 British Indians in partnership with YouGov. It certainly gave an inkling of which way the winds of change are blowing.