You don’t have to go too far to find Indian flavour in Britain’s general elections.
Four out of six candidates in the Ealing Southall constituency are of Indian origin: sitting Labour MP Veerendra Sharma is pitted against a Kaushik, a Mahal and a Singh.
A former bus conductor, Sharma, 68, is a veteran of Southall politics. He arrived from India 46 years ago. He has been a Labour MP from the constituency since 2007. ‘Sharma-ji’ to many, he is tipped to win again from the Labour stronghold, also known as ‘Little India’.
Until the early 1950s, Southall was a majority-white area, but has since become a melting pot of south Asian communities — most of them from India. It is dotted with Gurdwaras, temples and mosques.
Punjabi cuisine is one of many delights of the west London suburb. Thousands of locals are employed at nearby Heathrow airport and plans for a third runway to meet growing demands of air travel is a sensitive issue, since it would cut through many houses and villages.
Sharma’s margin of victory in 2010 – nearly 10,000 – places him in a comfortable position, but if a ‘Meet Your Candidates’ event at Hanwell on Tuesday night is any indication, he faces stiff opposition.
The Conservatives party finished second in 2010 and its new candidate James Symes, flagged the David Cameron government’s achievements on economy. But the candidate who impressed most was first-timer Kavya Kaushik of Liberal Democrats.
Seen as a ‘rising star’, Kaushik is the president of the youth wing of Liberal Democrats and a member of the party’s central strategy panel.
Other Indian-origin candidates are 19-year-old Jaspreet Mahal (Green party) and Jagdeesh Singh of the National Liberal Party.