Tory leader plays 'Hindu card' to widen base
Conservative Party leader David Cameron took many by surprise by turning up at a Hindu religious function in Leicester.india Updated: Jul 24, 2006 13:47 IST
Conservative Party leader David Cameron took many by surprise by turning up at a religious function of prominent Indian preacher Morari Bapu here and lavishing praise on Britain's Hindu community.
Cameron's party has an image problem within Britain's Asian community, which feels more comfortable with the policies of the Labour party.
For several years, Cameron's predecessors have been trying to increase their support within the community, to little effect.
On Friday, Cameron travelled to the Soar Valley Community College in Leicester, where Morari Bapu has been reciting 'Ramkatha' (excerpts from Hindu epic Ramayana) - from July 15 to 23 - on the occasion of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Shree Jalaram Mandir there.
The event has attracted a large number of his followers from Leicester, other parts of Europe and the US.
Cameron, who would like many to believe that he can mount a serious challenge to the Labour party at the next elections, has been straining hard to make his presence felt in the House of Commons and elsewhere.
His speech at the Morari Bapu function is seen as a way to woo Britain's Hindus - the third largest religious group after Christianity and Islam.
Picking on the recent research conducted by the respected Runnymede Trust titled "Connecting British Hindus", Cameron supported the growing demand that Hindus in Britain should be called "British Hindus" or "British Indians" and not "British Asians".
Connecting London's July 7 blasts with the blasts in Mumbai, Cameron said that in such times it was "all the more important that we have people, such as Bapu, spreading the message of peace.
The lessons of the Ramayana are timeless and go far beyond the sub-continent of India".
Cameron tapped the belief of many Hindus that unlike other faiths, the Hindu community had been taken for granted by the three main parties.
He strove hard to convey the message that he was aware of the problems faced by the community and that he would be the right person to deal with them.
Cameron said: "Being here today not only reminds me of the lessons offered by Hinduism as a faith, but also of the example set by British Hindus themselves. It's hardly surprising that British Hindus have been such a successful part of our nation.
"After all, the values you brought with you when you arrived here are those traditionally associated with Britain: tolerance, honesty, enterprise, and respect for the law.
Indeed, in your desire to live independently of the government while never shirking from contributing to the community, you embody the British ideal of balancing freedoms with duties.
"I know there are things that worry you. Too often, politicians seem to believe that British Hindus have no problems or concerns, and can therefore be ignored. In a sense, you're victims of your own success.
"Everyone knows that British Hindus are good citizens. In your everyday lives - within the family, at work and in the community - you're making real those famous words of Gandhi: 'We must be the change we want to see in the world.'
"British Hindus are truly British, but have achieved this without giving up their religious and cultural traditions.
And if you prefer to be referred to as British Hindus or British Indians rather than as simply Asians, we should welcome that as a positive thing."
Cameron's speech was well received by the large gathering but political observers believe that playing the 'Hindu card' may be theoretically a clever way to widen the Tory base in the Asian community, but it would take a lot more to enlist the kind of support that Labour has traditionally enjoyed within the community.