Like father, like son they say. Having taken to the footsteps of dad Dr Lekhraj Sharma who he considers as political guru, Virendra Sharma is a seasoned politician and has been one of the longest serving Members of Parliament from the constituency of Ealing and Southall, the Little Punjab of Britain. He had been re-elected for the third time in 2015 in a landslide victory with 65 per cent of the vote share….writes Ragasudha Vijamuri
His political career spans three and half decades from being the local councillor to serving Mayor of the borough, to becoming the MP. He was elected for three consecutive terms representing Labour Party. People may also recall that he was the first British MP to have invited PM Narendra Modi as soon as he assumed office following his roaring success in Indian elections. Though his political work is Britain-based, he continued to support developmental work for India.
“I am proud to represent the area I have lived in for the last 49 years and my campaign will focus on our community and how much we can achieve,” said Mr Sharma. “This election must be about bringing people together, improving people’s lives and turning our backs on the politics of division.
“This is a British election, and we should be debating British values, not old community conflicts, ancient arguments and squabbles from half a world away and half a century ago. Ealing Southall should be a standard bearer for tolerance and integration. We achieve so much more when we cooperate, when we unite and when we come together. It harms our community when we see ourselves as different and live separate lives.
“I believe in the freedom of speech, I believe in debate and I believe in the ballot box. We only damage ourselves when we resort to scare tactics and when we try to silence dissenting opinion. I will represent all of Ealing Southall, I will represent every religion, every culture and those unsure of where they belong.”
He was recently honoured with Pride of Punjab award at the hands of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid for his outstanding contributions to the community, the award which was instituted by the Punjabi Society of British Isles.
As a Chair for All-Party Parliamentary Group for Indian Traditional Sciences, he has been eloquent in promoting and understanding of issues concerning Ayurveda, Yoga, Vaastu and Yunani medicine. As a Chair for Indo-British All-Party Parliamentary Group, he furthered cooperation between his British parliamentarian colleagues and the Indian. He also chaired APPG for Britain-Nepal to encourage good relations between the two countries, as he always believed in uniting people and improving their lives.
Sharma has fought strongly against discrimination. He has equally contributed to his roles in social and well-being causes as Vice-Chair for APPG on Global Tuberculosis, APPG on Liver Health, Down’s Syndrome APPG, APPG for British Hindus, supported initiatives of National Indian Students and Alumni Union and has actively involved in several campaigns.
Sharma is the first one to support Labour’s move to increase the minimm wage.
“ “It is a disgrace that low pay has been allowed to flourish in Ealing,Southall under the Tories, “ said Sharma. The people of Ealing, Southall deserve a wage they can live off & it is only a Labour Government that will deliver it.”
“Labour’s REAL Living Wage is just one aspect of our plan to tackle low pay, and will be introduced in tandem with an industrial strategy to transform Britain into a high-skill, high-productivity, high-wage & sustainable modern economy by boosting investment & R&D, supporting manufacturing & foundation industries, & nurturing the industries of the future.”
Inspired by his father’s values and role in Punjab politics as a Member of Legislative Council, public interface came easily to Sharmaji. Though his beginnings were quite humble with the first job as Bus Conductor, he gradually worked his way up through his dedication and sincerity. Closer interaction with the community in late 60s and early 70s enabled him to realise the barrage of problems the immigrants were facing. Meanwhile, his involvement with the Trade Union became active. Scholarship to study at London School of Economics was perhaps a significant game changer. He is now campaigning to return to the Parliament for a fourth time.