Loveena Tandon, the UK/European correspondent for Aaj Tak/Headlines Today, looks into the changing attitudes of Western World to Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi and how London is changing its hues to welcome Modi
About 400 guests, predominantly of Indian origin, gathered at London’s prestigious Marriott Hotel applauded when Prime Minister David Cameron said: I won’t forget the conversation with Prime Minister Modi congratulating him on his victory. I picked up the phone and said, it’s great to be talking to someone who just got more votes than any other politician anywhere in the Universe.
The event was the annual lunch event of Conservative Friends of India (CFI).
We at the camera podium could not help smiling at the risk of shaking the cameras! Wow! Isn’t it amazing that a year ago Modi was a pariah. Now he is a most sought after statesman! I was doing stories on how Modi would not get a visa to
Britain and now a special delegation, a special congratulations and a special invitation has been sent! Last year’s CFI lunch had approximately 250 people addressed by Minister Eric Pickles. This year the prime minister himself – despite the wrangles over NHS, EU, reshuffles etc etc. Cameron, despite an emergency meeting made time to come, speak and mingle. Other than Brussels, India is the country which Cameron has visited the most and he still thinks, “we have not even scratched the surface of the relationship between the two countries.
Sometimes I feel India might have moved on but somewhere or the other I still keep hearing of Modi’s victory being celebrated here. William Hague and George Osborne came back smiling ear to ear after the 370 million pounds defence deal. FICCI recently organised a tempting UK-India business meet and CII followed the suite. Not to forget Hague’s announcement in India to install the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the Parliament Square. I can feel an India buzz in the UK. “India is on the rise…every party wants to court India…’ said Vijay Goel, Chairman of London Chambers of Commerce of Asian Businesses.
Traditionally Labour and not Tories are seen as natural allies of the ethnic minorities. 2010 elections proved this to some extent in which Labour got 68% support among ethnic minority voters while the Tories took just 16%. Not something Tories can afford in 2015 specially after Operation Black Vote’s [OBV] recent study which states that the voting power of the ethnic minority group has more than doubled in the UK. It shows that the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) voters had grown by 70 percent since the last election. In about 168 seats black and ethnic minority population can sway the results and these seats are spread across the urban and rural areas in England and Wales. Amongst the ethnic minority group Indians are one of the largest. It goes without saying that ethnic minority votes will be decisive in the next election. Pointing out this major and rise of people with ethnic background Vice Chairman of CFI Alok Sharma MP said: “We are seeing a demographic change and its imp for every party to react to them…”
The India minister Gregory Barker does accept this when he said: “There is a recognition starting with Cameron. We needed to to reach out more to the Indian Community…they are such an important community. Each and every vote is important. Parties are going all lengths to achieve this.”
Labour is seen as a natural ally of the ethnic minorities but now it seems Cameron has decided to leave no stone unturned. Look at the recent parliament reshuffle. Brutal and vigorous ! I see three things addressed. The first one is more women in important positions, second is amongst the women ethnic minorities especially Indian origin MP’s like Priti Patel given crucial position and finally bringing to the forefront people with humble backgrounds. In doing this Cameron has addressed all three major criticisms of his party, less women in key position; not reaching out to ethnic minorities and having privileges people in privileged positions thus an attempt to show that Tory party is representative of the diverse British society. Let us see how this move pans out on the next elections for the PM but I can say this with much conviction that ethnic minority could turn the course of next general elections with their votes.
(Loveena Tandon, the UK/European correspondent for Aaj Tak/Headlines Today and available on Sky 818)