London mayor poll: Tory hopeful woos voters in Indian languages

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Apr 20, 2016 12:35 IST
Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for the London mayor polls to be held on May 5, seen in the video “Zac Goldsmith Jeete Ga!” that features a song in Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu and Mandarin. (Conservative Connect)

The video “Neela hai asmaan” set the stage during the May 2015 election, seeking Indian votes for Conservatives, and the party candidate for the London mayor polls is wooing voters in four Indian languages in another video described as “cheesy” and “creepy”.

Tory hopeful Zac Goldsmith, 41, is pitted against Labour’s Sadiq Khan, 45, in an increasingly bitter contest marked by remarks considered vitriolic by London’s black and ethnic minorities, whose vote is crucial in several boroughs.

The video “Zac Goldsmith Jeete Ga!” features a song in five languages – Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali and Mandarin – and was released on YouTube days after Goldsmith and party leader David Cameron sent personalised letters to voters with Indian surnames, promising to protect family jewellery and highlighting their links with India.

Goldsmith’s four-minute video has not exactly gone viral, but it has been described as “cheesy”, “creepy”, “clunky” and a “monumental moment for multilingual garbage”.

It extols Goldsmith and his qualities as a leader, and shows him in a gurdwara and with his former brother-in-law, cricketer-politician Imran Khan. The music is a mishmash of Punjabi and Bengla music, with the lyrics continually switching between the languages.

Watch | Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith’s campaign song video for London mayor poll

Goldsmith has accused Pakistan-origin Sadiq Khan of sharing the stage and views with extremists during his time as a human rights lawyer.

Khan has strained to counter this allegation through leaflets and interviews, insisting he will counter extremism if he wins the May 5 polls.

The Khan camp, which holds a comfortable edge in opinion polls, has avoided responding with a similar video or by posting customised leaflets to voters. Compared to Goldsmith, seen as a “posh tosh”, Khan has highlighted his background as the son of a bus driver.

Concerned by increasingly vitriolic remarks in the campaign that allegedly pits communities against each other, campaign group Operation Black Vote has called on candidates to sign a “code of conduct”.

The “Neela hai asmaan” video was a first in Britain’s electoral politics, highlighting the Conservative party’s colour – ‘neela’ (blue) – and seeking to hit all the right buttons for the Indian community.

It showed Cameron greeting religious leaders such as Morari Bapu with folded hands, while his wife Samantha was shown at various Indian events decked in a sari. Cameron was also shown visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar and gurdwaras in the UK.

Visuals accompanying the upbeat song included Cameron shaking hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 summit in Australia and unveiling the Gandhi statue in Parliament Square in the company of Amitabh Bachchan and finance minister Arun Jaitley.

Britons of Indian origin have historically supported the Labour party, but since Cameron became leader of the Conservative party in 2005, he has assiduously wooed the community, often appearing at religious events and places.

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