UK elections: Punjabi-origin Virendra Sharma retains seat

  • PTI, None, London
  • Updated: May 08, 2015 21:01 IST

Punjabi-origin Labour candidate Virendra Sharma retained his Ealing Southall seat on Friday in the British elections in which the Indian-origin electorate shifted in favour of the Tory party.

Several Indian-origin candidates, including Keith Vaz, Priti Patel and Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy's son-in-law were also elected to the British Parliament. Indian-origin voters have connected more with Labour traditionally due to its working-class- and immigrant-friendly outlook but the new results signal a change.

Among the people of Indian origin (PIOs), prominent Labour candidates such as long-serving MPs Virendra Sharma and Keith Vaz (Leicester East) have won their respective seats because of special connect with a largely Indian-origin electorate in their constituencies. Ruling Conservatives' stalwart and British Prime Minister David Cameron's Indian diaspora champion Priti Patel also retained her Witham seat with a 41.5% majority.

Opposition Labour's Valerie Vaz retained her Walsall

South seat and Seema Malhotra won her Southwest London seat comfortably. Infosys co-founder's son-in-law Rishi Sunak, contesting from the Tory safe seat of Richmond (Yorks) in the north of England, won 27,744 votes. His nearest opponent, Matthew Cooke of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), polled a mere 8,194. Sunak won an impressive 51.4% majority to become a first-time MP in the House of Commons.

"I grew up watching my parents serve our local community with dedication. My dad is a NHS (National Health Service) family GP and my mum ran her own local chemist's shop," said Sunak. But it was not all smooth sailing for the Indian-origin Tory candidates, with Paul Uppal losing by a narrow margin to Labour. In the same Wolverhampton region, brother-sister duo Arun and Suria Photay also failed to make their first-time mark.

The overall tally of Indian-origin MPs in the new House of Commons will become clear when all results are declared. It remains to be seen if they are able to break the previous record of eight MPs in the 2010 general election.

There were 59 Indian-origin candidates in the fray, from the Tories (17), Labour (14), Liberal Democrats (14), Green Party (4), United Kingdom Independence Party (3), Independents (2), and one each from smaller players such as the All People's Party, Christian Movement for Great Britain, National Liberal Party, Socialist Labour Party, and Young People's Party.

David Cameron, who looks set to return as Prime Minister, has gone on record repeatedly during the campaign claiming that he is confident that the country's "first Asian or black Prime Minister" will come from his Conservative Party. The party had also fielded the first-ever Sikh candidate in Northern Ireland, Amandeep Singh Bhogal, but he failed to make any mark, finishing last with just 201 votes in a DUP stronghold.

PIO winners

Keith Vaz (Leicester East)
Valerie Vaz (Walsall)
Priti Patel (Witham)
Rishi Sunak, Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy's son-in-law (Richmond Yorks)
Seema Malhotra (Southwest London)

... and losers

Paul Uppal (Southwest Wolverhampton)
Brother-sister duo Arun and Suria Photay (Yardley and Southeast Wolverhampton, respectively)
Amandeep Singh Bhogal, Tory's first Sikh candidate
(Northern Ireland)
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, England's youngest Sikh mayor (Gravesham)
Gurcharan Singh (Slough)

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