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Wembley adds inches to Cameron among UK Indians

analysis Updated: Nov 17, 2015 08:26 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

British Prime Minister David Cameron addresses a welcome rally for India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Wembley Stadium in London on November 13, 2015.(AFP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be attracting more ennui back home for various reasons, but Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to benefit politically from Friday’s Wembley event, when British and Indian conservatism met on one stage.

As several British MPs and others gaped at the “Olympic-style” setting, there was unanimity that none of them – including Cameron – had ever addressed or seen such a political rally in Britain, where they usually speak to gatherings of hundreds or, at best, a thousand or two.

“You could be forgiven for thinking that it was actually Modi introducing a foreign dignitary (Cameron) to the London audience. Cameron went on to speak first, but no one has any doubt who was the hero of the show,” a senior British Indian MP told Hindustan Times.

Modi’s speech largely went down well, but there were not a few critics who said it had lost its novelty value, become repetitive, attracted mostly Gujarati people (the loudest cheer was for announcement of a new London-Ahmedabad flight), and for Modi’s “wrist-watch trick”. (“Now he has become a comedian too,” said a senior community leader.)

Read: In pics: Narendra Modi makes dazzling debut at Wembley stadium

However, politically, the event is likely to consolidate Cameron’s base in the British Indian community, which he has been wooing since he became leader of the opposition in 2005. Modi’s words of praise for him added to Cameron’s new bounce.

The Indian community’s contribution to the Conservative victory in the May election may have been over-stated, but the fact remains the position has changed, from when it was historically seen as the “nasty party” and Labour as the community’s natural party to support.

From turning up at events of Indian religious leaders in Leicester to visiting India three times as prime minister, Cameron has made India one of his major foreign policy priorities, mainly with trade and business in mind. He also brushed aside all criticism of Modi during the visit.

Like Modi, Cameron too repeated lines that went down well in the past, such as that he hoped Britain would one day have a British Indian prime minister, about the values of family and entrepreneurship in the community, and ‘achche din zaroor ayenge’.

The Conservative party won much support in the community before the May elections for espousing the opposition of several Indian community leaders and temples to the coming legislation outlawing caste discrimination, which is backed by Labour, including its new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn called on Modi on the last day of his visit, but several Labour members were left wringing their hands at the push Modi – a senior member called it a “certificate” – gave to Cameron, particularly during the Wembley event.

Read: Modi’s Wembley spectacle impresses UK press amidst ‘pariah’ theme