For Rishi Sunak the road ahead is tough
By: Nasir Dar
Britain has a new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. We will be coming back to him in a moment. But first, let us acknowledge the absolutely chaotic and embarrassing political turmoil that the Britain has been going through in last few months.
Rishi Sunak is UK’s third Prime Minister in less than seven weeks’ time. That is the same number of Prime Minister’s Britain cycled through between 1979 and 1997. Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair served UK in that span.
Sunak rose to power after a surprising turn of fate. He tried to replace Boris Johnson over the course of summer this year but was edged out by Liz Truss. However, Truss’ Tax Cut plan sent ripples in UK economy followed by the Global Economy. Her failed policy meant that the pound plunged in comparison to its counterpart Dollar. She was forced to resign only after 45 days being in office.
Her’s is the shortest tenure of a Prime Minister in British history. So, after coming in second to Truss just a few months ago, Sunak got a second chance to become the Prime Minister. The crazier part here is that, it looked as if he may have to face Boris Johnson. He is man that Sunak tried to replace in the month of September. Boris was trying to garner support and it seemed he may be able to challenge Rishi Sunak. However, Boris Johnson had to back-off last week as he failed to gather the requisite support in the parliament.
So, with all the circus behind him, 42-year-old right wing pro-Brexit conservative Rishi Sunak is set to become Britain’s youngest Prime Minister this century. He will also be the first PM of color, first of South Asian descent and the first Hindu to hold the position. In terms of diversity and representation, this is a big moment for the UK. Especially, considering the British Empire’s tortured colonial history with India, in particular.
But no, this is not the post-racial moment for the UK just like the election of Barack Obama was not a post-racial moment for United States of America. And we need to seriously stop the talk of, “If Sunak can be Prime Minister, anyone can.” Let’s try to dive a little deeper into his history.
Rishi Sunak’s immigrant parents spent tens of thousands to send him to one of England’s top private schools before moving onto Oxford University. An MBA started with a very ordinary job at Goldman Sachs. He fully cemented his status as an elite by marrying the daughter of Infosys co-founder Murthy. He was valued at around 730 million pounds with his main asset coming from his wife worth 690 million pounds. He was named the richest member of the British Parliament.
Although studying in top private schools doesn’t make a man elitist but he surely did enough to be amongst them. Marrying a billionaire lady, amassing gigantic fortunes and aligning himself with right-wing reactionary establishment made him the Prime Minister.
So, it is not that easy for everyone to be the Prime Minister of Britain. So, should we be delighted that an Indian born, brown man with and Indian descent (like myself) became the Prime Minister? Yes, I am. Is it great for a Hindu to get the top job and that too on Diwali? Absolutely yes! But the real question is: Is Rishi Sunak or his Conservative Party actually going to help minorities or the people of color in UK? Don’t be silly!
We need to understand that Rishi Sunak is not any refugee. His father was an economic immigrant. Such people have a tendency of becoming more anti-immigrant that any white supremacist. They care absolutely nothing about ordinary people. Rishi Sunak himself is a prime example of a man who only wants to amass millions of pounds. We must not forget that his wife was not register as British citizen not too far ago as she was avoiding hefty British taxes.
Her evasion of taxes started to falter the chances of Sunak’s growth into prominence which eventually let her to acknowledge that she is going to pay taxes to UK treasury. His appointment has been seen as a move to elect a hard-hearted brown man with hardcore anti-immigrant agenda to push the motives of right-wing parties in Europe. Such cases have started to grow and we may even see some other countries following suite soon.
Immigration is the biggest headache for the conservatives of UK. Rishi Sunak may be the perfect solution for them. A man who may be loved by the minorities for his color is the staunchest and most stringent leader that the conservatives could place their trust upon. The former Finance Minister of UK is a man who is known for his strong stand against immigration. Sunak wants to “tighten” the legal definition of who qualifies for asylum to be “in line with the [UN] Refugee Convention” instead of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This is baffling given that the ECHR has no definition of asylum seekers.
The excitement in India about Rishi Sunak is understood. The utterly cruel and catastrophic imperialism has certainly left some serious marks on the bodies and minds of Indians. In such a situation, when you see a man with Indian descent being elected as the head of the government in the same country gives a lot of satisfaction.
Moreover, its more satisfying if the man is a Hindu in a country where polarisation on the basis of religion has become a norm. Many international relations experts believe that he may take Indo-UK relations to the next level. But that is not going to be the case as of now. As things stand, Rishi has a big mess to clean in his own country first. He needs to stabilize the drowning ship of British politics. This would be followed by his economic mind being busy in drafting policies to bring dignity and pride in British pound. He also needs to start coming up with policies which will help him cement his place as an outright hardcore conservation, his grip on immigration. And, if he gets some time after performing all these activities, he will surely see himself as a man who can be entrusted by some countries to strengthen their relation with UK.
India is no exception in expecting him to deliver on the grounds of geo-politics. But the sad news is that this man is nothing less any crony capital from whom India has been suffering. He is husband to a lady who evaded 20 million pounds in taxes by not registering herself with British tax administration. It will surely be too early to trust such a man when it comes to handling economic policies.
Indians need to understand that this man is a British born capitalist whose main focus has been to grow into prominence among the right-wing conservatives. And in no world would any right-wing conservative capitalist give any sort of respite to minorities of his country. Especially, when he is trying to prove himself to be loyal to the country with whites in majority.
As far as India’s relation with Britain is considered, I do not see any gigantic leap going forward. Rishi Sunak will be equally sensitive to the charges of favoritism just like another prominent leader beyond the oceans in the name of Kamala Harris. Many critiques of his want him to tread this path exceptionally carefully. Lest we forget that he is the British Prime Minister after all.
His main responsibility is to serve British people. So, expecting him to go out of his way and better ties with India would be a wishful thinking. The only positive about his Indian descendance is his openness in terms of his beliefs. He is a proud Hindu. That should be all for the majoritarian thinkers of India, as of now. He has a history of visiting temples regularly and repeatedly stressing on his pride of being a Hindu. So, Sunak’s dedication to his religion and his roots has instilled hope in many Indians that he will work on bringing the two countries closer. He, however, is not the person who thinks like many Indians believe him to do. He is the person whose main focus is to build a two-way relationship with India. He wants India to open its arms for the British students in its market of companies and institutions. He also advocates India to open its market for the UK based companies.
UK has huge restrictions when it comes to the visas allocated to the students. Among the 50 universities which get special visa from UK not even a single one is from India. Indian students have always suffered a lot while trying to get into different institutions around UK. The trend is going to continue and may not see any drastic changes because of the fact that Rishi Sunak’s political party has always stood strongly against immigration of all types.
However, there is one thing which we can learn from Rishi Sunak’s alleviation as UK PM. It is the fact that even most racist, cruel and imperialistic countries have also started to acknowledge their minorities and have started to let them grow in prominence. India needs to start doing that or start re-doing that. India has a history of inclusive diversity. Rishi Sunak’s example should be taken seriously and every minority should be given a chance to serve the country at the helm of affairs.
With all being said, Rishi Sunak has truly raised a hope among the immigrants of Europe that they can also take the highest positions possible in their respective countries. Moreover, a practicing Hindu as the head of the government of The Great Britain is truly as change in terms of the history. Irrespective of what Sunak brings forth for India, the people of this country must be proud of what he has achieved. Indians must feel proud because the country which ruled brutally for over 200 years over India and many similar countries is now standing at a stage where it is going to be ruled by a man of color, a Hindu and a man with Indian-Asian descent.
(The writer is an International Relations Scholar and may be contacted at: email@example.com)