10/25/2022, 14.21
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Sunak as UK PM makes BJP proud but for opposition this would be now impossible in India

Indian PM Modi describes the UK’s new prime minister as a "living bridge" that will “transform our historic ties into a modern partnership.” A Hindu nationalist spokesman notes how the event coincides with Diwali and turns the British Raj on its head. In India, the opposition compares the UK, which accepts a prime minister from a minority, to India where the BJP has imposed a divisive citizenship law.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The rise of Rishi Sunak, a politician of Indian origin, to the top post in the British government is having strong echoes in India, sparking a sense of national pride as well as raising questions about the country’s own attitudes towards minorities.

Sunak, 42, is the first British prime minister of Asian origin, as well as the youngest in nearly two centuries. He is also the son-in-law of Narayana Murthy, cofounder of tech giant Infosys.

Born in Southampton, the new Conservative Party leader is the grandson of Indian migrants who left Gujranwala, Punjab province, British India (present-day Pakistan) in the 1930s for East Africa. Sunak’s father and mother were born in Kenya and Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania) respectively before moving to the United Kingdom in the 1960s.

Back in his ancestral homeland, Sunak’s Indian roots are a topic of discussion. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his best wishes to his British counterpart on the occasion of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights currently underway, describing him as a “‘living bridge’ for UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership.”

Speaking on behalf of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Sudhanshu Trivedi, noted: “India became 5th largest economy surpassing Britain, now it is just a coincidence or Providence that on ‘Maha Kaal Ratri (Diwali Night) ‘Kaal Chakra (Time cycle) is indicating a new design as Indian origin @RishiSunak is set to have ‘Raj’ (rule) over ‘British’ on 75th year they left”.

India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, reacted quite differently. On Monday, Shashi Tharoor, who a few days ago lost the race for the hitherto Gandhi family-dominated Congress party leader to Mallikarjun Kharge, tweeted, “Britain has done something ‘very rare’ in the world, in making a member of ‘visible minority’ in the most powerful office. As we Indians celebrate the ascent of Rishi Sunak, let’s honestly ask, can it happen here?”

This did not sit well with some Hindu nationalists. OpIndia, a right-wing website, replied noting that a Sikh member of the Congress Party, Manmohan Singh, was Indian prime minister and that the three Indian presidents were Muslims.

For his part, Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, an Indian state with a Muslim majority whose autonomy was scrapped by Hindu nationalists in 2019, directly targeted the BJP, raising the issue of India’s amended citizenship law, which strongly penalises minorities.

This is a "Proud moment that UK will have its first Indian-origin PM,” she tweeted. “While all of India rightly celebrates, it would serve us well to remember that while UK has accepted an ethnic minority member as its PM, we are still shackled by divisive and discriminatory laws like NRC[*] & CAA.[†]"

[*] National Register of Citizens.

[†] Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

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