London: As Boris Johnson’s party troubles grow and members of his own Tory party demand he step down as British Prime Minister, one name is making the rounds as a favorite to take charge. And for fellow countrymen to rejoice, it is none other than his Indian-born Chancellor and Downing Street neighbor – Rishi Sunak.Also Read – Russia May Attack Ukraine In Coming Days, Says Biden; The Kremlin denies all allegations
So who is Rishi Sunak?
The UK-born son of a pharmacist mother and National Health Service (NHS) GP father, is a graduate of Oxford University and Stanford. He is married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, and the couple have two young daughters – Krishna and Anoushka. Also Read – Karachi’s Hindu community continues to fight to reclaim its historic Gymkhana
A convinced Brexiter
The MP for Richmond in Yorkshire first entered the UK Parliament in 2015 and quickly rose through the ranks of the Conservative Party as a staunch Brexit supporter, who had backed Johnson’s strategy to leave the European Union (EU ). “From working in my mother’s tiny pharmacy to my experience building big businesses, I’ve seen how we should support free enterprise and innovation to secure a stronger future for Britain,” he said. Sunak during the Brexit referendum. Read also – Russia-Ukraine clash: Europe closer to war than it has been in 70 years, says senior British official
Sunak co-founded a billion-pound global investment firm and specialized in investing in UK small businesses before entering politics. As the first Chancellor of the Exchequer of Indian descent, he made history in February 2020 when he was appointed to the UK Cabinet’s top job.
Perhaps the first British PM of Indian origin!
If Conservative Party murmurings and bookmakers’ betting odds are anything to go by, then the 41-year-old could well be in line to make history as India’s first British Prime Minister. “No, absolutely not. Considering what the prime minister has to deal with, it’s quite a difficult job for me to do,” Sunak said in October 2020, when asked if he had any ambitions to Prime Minister.
But a lot has happened since, with Sunak leading the country’s economic fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the programs he put in place as finance minister, including the leave-based coronavirus job retention scheme and COVID support grants for struggling businesses during several shutdowns , proved to be widely popular.
High-tax plans may not go down well with Tories
However, the proposed tax hikes from April and the steadily rising cost of energy and the cost of living proved less popular within the Conservative Party base. The Conservatives, notorious for their low tax rates, might find his high tax plans to claw back some of the economic ground lost during the pandemic hard to digest when things really come down to a leadership scrum.
Criticized for not supporting Johnson
In fact, there is already talk within party ranks that he overplayed his hand by not speaking out more strongly in favor of Johnson, 57, following his apology in Parliament earlier this week for a Downing Street garden party in apparent breach of lockdown rules.
Sunak, who was miles away on a business visit, tweeted much later that evening to say the Prime Minister was right to apologize and I support his plea for patience while Sue Gray investigates . This was seen as a half-hearted show of support and seen as reflecting his own leadership ambitions.
95-pound slippers, a so-called 180-pound smart mug…but a family man
The wealth associated with Sunak and his wife Akshata has also often attracted attention for the wrong reasons, with the chancellor’s pair of 95-pound slippers spotted in official photographs released ahead of the Budget last October, the latest luxury item to make the headlines.
This followed being photographed with a so-called 180-pound smart mug, said to have been a gift from his wife. However, his image as a family man who wears bracelets made by his daughters before important speeches is the narrative that the British Indian community would like to put forward.
A proud Hindu
Sunak has also often presented himself as a proud Hindu, most recently when he unveiled a new commemorative 5-pound coin celebrating the life of Mahatma Gandhi for Diwali last November. “As a practicing Hindu I am proud to unveil this coin during Diwali. Mahatma Gandhi was instrumental in India’s independence movement and it is fantastic to have a British coin commemorating his life remarkable for the first time,” he said at the time.
A new British Indian history in the works?
Since taking over as chancellor, there has been speculation in the UK media that Sunak is considering the top job to move next to his current office at 11 Downing Street. A prime minister and chancellor at odds with each other has been a historic dynamic within British politics and much of the speculation has been attributed to this political power play. However, with Johnson increasingly embattled within the ranks of his own party, this Downing Street neighborhood dynamic may well continue to create a new British Indian story.
(Based on PTI entries)