Focus on India as UK Goes to Poll on June 8

British Prime Minister Theresa May in India
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In the last general election, the Indian community, especially the Sikhs, supported the Conservative candidates despite the controversy over the Thatcher administration’s role in Operation Blue Star. The prime minister David Cameron took a series of visits to Gurudwaras at major Sikh habitats to regain support….writes Kaliph Anaz

British Prime Minister Theresa May in India

Prime Minister Theresa May’s first public meeting after declaring general election on June 8 will be a Vaisakhi reception she is hosting at No 10 Downing Street, her official residence.

Her first visit outside Europe as Prime Minister was to India. Last week several prominent cabinet ministers were in India cementing ties in various sectors including defence and trade.

The British media are eagerly waiting for the speech she is going to deliver at the event. Prominent members of the Indian community like Dr Rami Ranger CBE, a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party, are attending.

In the last general election, the Indian community, especially the Sikhs, supported the Conservative candidates despite the controversy over the Thatcher administration’s role in Operation Blue Star. The prime minister David Cameron took a series of visits to Gurudwaras at major Sikh habitats to regain support.

The support of 1.5 million strong Indian community is very crucial for winning the marginal seats. The race will be three pronged as the recharged Liberal Democrats seeking votes on a Brexit agenda. Sikhs are crucial at many constituencies.

British Indians, along with other minority communities in the U.K., have historically voted for the Labour party. In 2010, for instance, 61% of the Indian-origin votes went to Labour candidates in the general election. But one recent report by the British Election Study said that in 2014 only 18% of Indian-origin voters identified with the Labour party, compared to 77% in 1997.

Another survey found that 50 per cent supported the Conservative Party in 2015 while 38 per cent supported Labour. Along religious lines, nearly 49 per cent Hindus and Sikhs favoured Tories as compared to 41 per cent for Labour. That is why Prime Minister May making a point to laud Sikhs.

“As Sikhs across the globe take part in spectacular processions, and neighbourhoods and gurdwaras burst forth with colour, I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the immense contribution British Sikhs make to our country,” she said in her Vaisakhi message. “Whether it’s in the fields of business, the armed forces or the charitable sector, you consistently follow the pillars of your faith and in so doing set an example to us all.

“Your values – of equality and respect, of fairness and helping those less fortunate than yourselves – are values we need more than ever, as we forge a new, ambitious, role for Britain in the world. I am determined to build a country that works for everyone; a country where no matter who you are, you can achieve your goals, and the Sikh community is a vital part of that mission.”

By choosing the Sikh community to deliver the first policy speech after declaring general election, May shows the importance of Sikhs in the diversified tapestry of Britain.

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