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Why British PM is wooing Indians in his country

world Updated: Apr 27, 2012 01:28 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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British Prime Minister David Cameron launched a Conservative Friends of India group this week, where he said wonderful things about India and British Indians that were cheered by the gathered hundreds, especially his remark that the first British-Indian PM would a Conservative.

It's unclear what he wants to do with this forum - there's nothing new about such groups but the last such attempt ended in scandal after its mover was snared offering Cameron's cellphone number for £10,000.

If Cameron's aim is to sell more British goods to India and get more Indian companies investing in Britain as it slips into a second recession, then this is not the place. Trade is far better handled by experts and there's an Indophile minister - Vince Cable - in charge of it.

Rather, Cameron wants to enlist the support of more British Indian voters at the next general elections in 2015 through a single forum that is "about building a strong and sustainable relationship between the Conservative Party, the British Indian community and India."

He is expected to launch a Conservative Friends of Pakistan and a third group for Bangladesh later in the year.

This launch was the first step in a campaign to wean 'aspirational' ethnic minority votes away from the opposition Labour. It follows a warning by Conservative strategist Lord Michael Ashcroft that in the 2010 elections, only 16% of ethnic minority voters supported the Conservatives, "and this problem is costing the party seats."

"Simply restating core Conservative values like hard work, reported to be central to the party's new campaign, risks missing the mark," Ashcroft said after months of research.

At the launch, many told me how the Conservative party is the home of God-fearing, family-loving, hard-working, highly-educated and, ultimately, successful Indians. Yet, on the ground, you hear British Indian businessmen complain bitterly about government policies.