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Conservative Verma makes waves

Sandip Verma, Conservative candidate for Parliament, is being hailed as poster girl of UK's multicultural success story.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:24 IST

Sandip Verma, the Asian businesswoman selected as a Conservative candidate for Parliament, is being hailed as the poster girl of Britain's multicultural success story.

Verma, 44, is the candidate from Wolverhampton South West, the constituency of staunch immigration opponent, the late Enoch Powell. She came to Britain from Amritsar with her parents when she was less than a year old in 1960. Since then, she and her family have run a successful business in Leicester.

From Leicester to Wolverhampton South West -- Powell's constituency for 24 years -- it has been a fast track rise for Verma. She did not involve herself in local politics before coming on to the national stage.

"I've come straight to the national league, as I call it, simply because I made a very clear decision that at the age of 40 I was going to come in actively to politics.

"Prior to that I needed to make sure my businesses were set. I needed to make sure my children were able to manage. So those were my priorities," she said in an interview with the Guardian.

Verma is aware of the Conservative party's record and also Powell's anti-immigration stance and the famous "rivers of blood speech" in 1968 but plays them down.

On Powell's speech, she said: "Look, I know of the speech. But, you know, can I just take you, 30-odd years later, to where we are now?

"Just look at how wonderfully diverse Britain is and how we're able to celebrate an Asian woman standing in Wolverhampton South West as the candidate for the Conservative party."

Verma recalled that Powell had a great love for India, while her aides added that he also knew Urdu.

"We mustn't forget, (Powell) had a great love of India. He greatly enjoyed his time in India. He learnt his appreciation of architecture from India. So it wasn't totally a one-sided thing."

Her comments indicate that she is well and truly representative of the Conservative party, including its stance on asylum seekers.

"Verma...finds herself the poster girl for Britain's multicultural success story, and a walking two-fingers to the more inglorious sections of her party's past," the paper said.

Known as Sandy to her family, Verma and her husband run a business, with her husband providing domiciliary care to the elderly and disabled people in the community.

Their major clients include the Leicester city council. Before that, for more than two decades, they owned a firm manufacturing high-fashion goods.

Her parents moved from Amritsar in Punjab to Leicester when she was a baby.

"My grandfather came here in the 1930s. My mother and father and myself came here just before my first birthday in 1960. My grandfather was a widower so my mother and my mother's sister were educated in India. We're from a business family throughout. What else?"

First Published: Dec 25, 2003 21:33 IST