Rishi Sunak in historic comeback bid to be elected UK’s first British Indian PM
London: It is being widely pitched as one of the most remarkable political comebacks in British politics as Indian-origin former chancellor Rishi Sunak formally entered the race to be elected Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister on Sunday.
This time around he is back with arguably even greater gravitas, given that most of his warnings dismissed by outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss as a “doom and gloom” have since come true and plunged the UK economy into a downward spiral as a result of unfunded tax cuts unleashed by a now infamous mini-budget.
While Sunak has maintained a dignified silence over the recent crisis, his supporters have not lost any opportunity to point out how the former finance minister had got the economic forecasts right.
Sunak, 42, a former investment banker and Oxford and Stanford University graduate, was elected member of Parliament from the Tory stronghold of Richmond in Yorkshire in 2015. He quickly rose up the party ranks from junior ministerial posts to Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Last month, his meteoric rise within the Tory ranks hit new heights as he concluded his spirited run to be elected Britain’s first Prime Minister of Indian heritage.
In the end, the result was closer than was forecast with Sunak – a clear frontrunner among the party MPs – losing out in the wider membership poll 43 per cent to Truss’ 57 per cent.
“We know the UK-India relationship is important. We represent the living bridge between our two countries,” declared Sunak, during the course of the nearly eight-week-long election process — dubbed one of the longest job interviews in British politics.
His vision for India-UK bilateral ties went beyond the opportunity for the UK to sell things in India, wanting Britain to also “learn from India”.
“I want to make sure that it’s easy for our students to also travel to India and learn, that it’s also easy for our companies and Indian companies to work together because it’s not just a one-way relationship, it’s a two-way relationship, and that’s the type of change I want to bring to that relationship,” he said.
His close allies and the #Ready4Rishi campaign team never ruled out another go at the party leadership, while the father of two school-going daughters – Krishna and Anoushka – took some time out for family.
“The greatest sacrifice I have made is that I have been an appalling husband and father for the past couple of years, it’s as simple as that,” replied Sunak, to a question about running to become the UK’s “first non-white Prime Minister”.
“That is something that is really hard for me because I love my kids to bits, I love my wife to bits and unfortunately, I have not been able to be as present in their lives at all in the past few years as I would have liked to have been,” he said at the final hustings in Wembley, London, last month.
His “incredible, loving, kind wife” wife, Akshata Murty – the daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy and author Sudha Murty, was seen tearing up in the audience which had cheered on her husband just moments before to a rockstar’s welcome with chants of “Rishi, Rishi”.
His parents, retired doctor Yashvir and pharmacist Usha Sunak, were also tearful beside her as he thanked them for all their support and inspiration.
“It was their example of service and what they did for people that inspired me to enter politics,” he said.
This strong family spirit remained at the heart of Sunak’s leadership bid, from being the favourite among his party colleagues through to the final stages of voting.
“My father-in-law came from absolutely nothing, just had a dream and a couple of hundred pounds that my mother-in-law’s savings provided him, and with that he went on to build one of the world’s largest, most respected, most successful companies that by the way employs thousands of people here in the United Kingdom,” he said during one of the early TV debates in a fightback against attacks on his wife’s Infosys wealth.
The devout Hindu former minister, who swore his oath of allegiance on being elected MP in the House of Commons on the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, also found time for ‘darshan’ at a temple during the course of the long campaign and had members of the Indian diaspora praying for his success.
“This gift is a special blessing all the way from India,” said Amita Mishra, Trustee of Shree Jagannatha Society UK who handed him a set of gold-plated deities amid chants of a victory shloka from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’.
There may well be a delayed answer to those victory prayers, with the outcome known by this week. It was former prime minister David Cameron who had declared with confidence that it will be the Conservative Party that will offer up the UK’s first British Indian prime minister and at least within the Tory ranks so far, the party is most definitely geared up to set this new record.