Tributes have been paid to Punjab-born Culdipp Singh Bhatti, the first Sikh lord mayor of the east Midlands city of Leicester, who died on New Year Day aged 80 after a prolonged struggle with cancer.
Arriving in Britain in 1959, Bhatti represented the Rushey Mead ward on Leicester City Council from 1983 until he stepped down before last year’s election. He rose to become the deputy council leader and the city’s first Sikh lord mayor in 1995.
Senior Labour MP from Leicester East, Keith Vaz, said: “I first met Culdipp Bhatti 30 years ago on the first day I arrived in Leicester. He was a man of integrity, honour and dedication to his family and to the people of Rushey Mead and his beloved city of Leicester.”
He added: “A councillor for over three decades, he was a history-maker, breaking the glass ceiling when he was first elected. We shall miss him terribly and quite simply we will never see his like again.”
City mayor Peter Soulsby told the media: “I was very sorry to hear of Culdipp’s death. When I first met him we were both teachers and on the council. He served this city in so many ways with such passion and loyalty. He carried out his term as lord mayor with absolute distinction.”
Bhatti’s father-in-law was the late Captain Chajja Singh Kler, who fought in the British Indian army. Vaz paid tributes to Bhupinder Bhatti, the former lady mayoress, who he said had been Bhatti’s “tower of strength” both in politics and for the family.
Bhatti campaigned for a commemorative statue in Leicester for British, Sikh, Muslim and Hindu soldiers who fought in the British Indian army. The memorial was installed and unveiled near Victoria Park in Leicester in 2011.