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2015 polls: UK parties add extra spark to Diwali to woo Indians

world Updated: Oct 25, 2014 23:31 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

Diwali events hosted by the prime minister at 10, Downing Street and by leaders of other parties are a regular feature in Britain’s political calender, but this year there is an extra spark to them: elections are round the corner and the Indian vote is increasingly influential.

Britain is in election mode ahead of the May 2015 polls, and the three main parties have been using every opportunity to woo various sections of the people.

Britons of Indian origin have traditionally voted Labour, but recent trends indicate that they are no longer a Labour vote bank.

PM David Cameron hosted a well-attended Diwali reception last week, where he lit the traditional ‘diya’ and made the right remarks about Indian values of family, education and entrepreneurship that have enriched Britain.

At the same time, Labour leader Ed Miliband held his Diwali event, soon to be followed by the Liberal Democrats leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg. Miliband also appeared at Navratri celebrations recently.

Many Indian-origin guests attended all the three events, pleasantly surprised at the extra spark at the celebrations. Reports by some think-tanks suggest increasing influence of Indian and other ‘ethnic minority’ communities in the forthcoming elections.

Until recently, Cameron’s Conservative party had a problem: it was seen as the ‘nasty party’ by large sections of ethnic minorities, including the Indian community.

But thanks to Cameron’s assiduous wooing of the Indian community while in opposition before the 2010 elections, and the parallel dwindling of Labour’s political fortunes under Miliband, sections of the community have increasingly veered towards the Conservatives.

While in opposition, Cameron would participate in events by Indian spiritual leader Asaram Bapu in Leicester and elsewhere.

There are already signs that the Conservative party would give tickets to more Indian-origin candidates during the elections.

Rishi Sunak, a 34-year-old businessman and son-in-law of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy, has been chosen as the Conservative candidate from Richmond in Yorkshire, which is currently held by senior leader William Hague, who is quitting politics.