EU polls: Indian voters wooed with mangoes, Gandhi

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: May 22, 2014 00:35 IST

As debate rages on about Britain’s membership of the European Union in the build-up to elections to the European Parliament on Thursday, political parties have been wooing Indian and Asian voters with promises to overturn the ban on Indian mangoes.

The elections are being held across Europe from May 22 to May 25, when voters will elect 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to represent their interests for the next five years. Voting for 73 MEPs from the UK is scheduled for Thursday.

Elections to local councils in Britain are also being held on the same day. The outcome of both elections will be seen as a referendum on the three main parties — Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats — as the next general elections in May 2015 draw near.

Interest in this year’s European elections has been fuelled by the dramatic rise of the UK Independent Party (UKIP), which wants Britain to come out of the EU, which is seen as increasingly taking over powers of member-states who fund it at a considerable cost.

Quoting Gandhi, UKIP leader Nigel Farage on Wednesday dismissed criticism of his party by the political establishment and media. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you … then you win,” he said, predicting that UKIP would definitely come first in the EU polls.

The Conservative and Labour parties have been struggling to counter UKIP’s popularity, which is mainly due to its anti-EU and anti-immigration stand. Amidst charges that Farage and his party are racists, UKIP has been rising in opinion polls.

In Leicester, which has a large population of Indian and Asian origin, Conservative MEP Emma McClarkin said she had been in talks with the Indian ambassador in Brussels, Manjeev Singh Puri, to help get the EU ban on Indian mangoes and some vegetables lifted.

UKIP has fielded some Indian and Asian-origin candidates in the European elections in a bid to ward off criticism of it being a racist party.

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