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UK poll: Hindu temple, gurdwara on campaign trail of May and Corbyn

world Updated: Jun 08, 2017 08:17 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip May performing the ‘abhishek’ ritual at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan temple in northwest London.

Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip May performing the ‘abhishek’ ritual at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan temple in northwest London.(HT Photo)

Some call it “minority appeasement UK style”, but come elections and Hindu temples and gurdwaras get visits from top leaders to court the increasingly influential votes of the British Indian community. So it was in the build-up to Thursday’s election. 

Prime Minister Theresa May visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan temple with her husband Philip May, and performed the ‘abhishek’ ritual, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, wearing a saffron turban.

Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip May at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan temple in northwest London. (HT Photo)

The former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, held an ‘arti thali’ on the eve of the 2015 elections in one of the most widely shared images in the Indian community. Former prime minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron were not far behind, hot-footing to Indian places of worship.

 “It is minority appeasement, UK style,” laughs Mumbai-origin Shamsuddin Agha, president of the Indian Muslim Federation UK. “They are after votes, we have no objection to that, we come from a multicultural, multilingual country,” he told Hindustan Times.

“It’s the same idea behind what we call minority appeasement that in India. British leaders will go to temples, gurdwaras, mosques for votes. It is good that they realise the importance of votes of the Indian community.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha. (Twitter)

May’s visit to the temple in Neasden, northwest London, has evidently gladdened hearts. Her Conservative Party has been wooing the community since 2005 under Cameron, which resulted in a substantial section voting for the party in 2010 and 2015 elections

"I say to all British Hindus and Indians, come with me as we make Britain the world’s great meritocracy. Come with me as we build a truly global Britain, and help me build those vital links with India. Come with me as we build a stronger, fairer and more prosperous vision for us all,” May told nearly 2,000 worshippers in the temple. 

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn eating at the ‘langar’ or community kitchen of the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha. (Twitter)

Her visit was hailed by the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT), which made clear its preference for the party in a statement. The Conservative Party is seen to be closer to the influential Hindu-Sikh lobbies opposed to the anti-caste discrimination law in Britain, which is currently undergoing public consultation. 

“Whether British Hindu voters vote for PM Theresa May who performed Abhishek with Britain's Hindus and whose party has elevated Indian origin parliamentarians to cabinet and ministerial positions, or whether they vote for Jeremy Corbyn who snubbed PM Modi's parliamentary address and whose grandees are determined to foist caste labels upon British Hindus, it is critical that British Hindus do vote,” NCHT said in a statement.

Corbyn was introduced in the gurdwara by senior Labour leader Virendra Sharma, who held the Ealing, Southall seat with a majority of 18,760 in 2015.

He said: "I urge all of you to do everything you can in this borough to win every single one of the constituencies in this borough and the ones around because to get a Labour government, we need to make gains as well as holding what we have.”