Britain's first December election in nearly a century was called by Prime Minister Johnson with a central goal to break the deadlock in Parliament over Britain's impending exit European Union (EU) and diaspora leaders felt this message resonated with the Indian-origin voters alongside the wider electorate.
The UK’s Indian diaspora on Friday hailed the impressive victory of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the historic General Election, which saw unprecedented activism by the community members against the Opposition Labour Party’s perceived anti-India stance. Britain’s first December election in nearly a century was called by Prime Minister Johnson with a central goal to break the deadlock in Parliament over Britain’s impending exit European Union (EU) and diaspora leaders felt this message resonated with the Indian-origin voters alongside the wider electorate. Johnson won the historic election as his Conservative Party crossed the 326-mark required for a majority in Parliament.
“Boris Johnson will deliver Brexit and take the country to the next level,” said Lord Rami Ranger, co-chair of the Conservative Friends of India (CFIN), who believes the diaspora voters saw through the Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party’s vision which would have left the country “bankrupt”. “The result gives Indian business the certainty they have been calling for; if not the details of what the full-fledged UK-EU trade deal will eventually look like, the fact that they will need to start adjusting to the post-Brexit challenges as well as opportunities that the UK’s new course will provide,” said Manoj Ladwa, CEO of UK-based media house India Inc. which had released a pre-election opinion poll of British Indian voter intentions. The survey had thrown up an 18 per cent undecided set of British Indian voters, showing a large chunk of diaspora votes up for grabs which seem to have been capitalised by the Tories.
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Boris Johnson had made a decisive play for this vote with a visit to the famous Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, north-west London, just days before the election and made a pledge to partner with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his mission to build a new India and also announced plans for a major visit to India in the New Year. “A defining feature of the election has to be the unprecedented activism of the Indian diaspora in standing up to the anti-India propaganda that Jeremy Corbyn presided over within his party, regrettably much akin to the antisemitism that has plagued Labour all through his leadership,” added Ladwa, in reference to the perceived anti-India Labour stance which seems to have cost the party votes from a traditionally loyal Indian-origin base. The Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) diaspora outfit proactively rallied community votes against what it said was the Labour party’s betrayal of British Indians.
“The Indian community in Britain has been hurt by Labour’s stand on Kashmir as well as its lack of response in the face of the attack on diaspora members at the Indian High Commission in London on our Independence Day. Our aim has simply been to run an information campaign,” he said, adding that the focus of their efforts were in all the areas with a strong Indian-origin population to better inform the electorate. Overall, Boris Johnson’s victory is seen as good news for India-UK relations, given his past track record. “The return of a Boris-led Conservative government focused on bilateral trade, diaspora and security relationships could possibly ensure a true strategic partnership,” said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank in London.
“Boris Johnson’s decisive electoral victory provides a unique opportunity for a real strategic partnership with India, and not just in rhetoric terms,” said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank in London. “This will need to focus on the ‘fourth leg’ of the chair of bilateral relations, defence and security cooperation, alongside trade, investment and diaspora relations… A start could be to prioritise their relations through the formal enunciation of a UK ‘India Strategy’, like the EU has recently done for India,” he said.
However, there was a note of caution struck by some on the prospect of Johnson’s victory reflecting a clear-cut post-Brexit scenario. “We simply do not know what kind of Brexit Boris Johnson wants,” said Anand Menon, Director of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank. “The stakes, in other words, could hardly be higher. It is conceivable that the government will be able to persuade people that Brexit was ‘done’ in January. But there will be no hiding from the economic repercussions,” he said, in reference to the unclear contours of the UK’s future relationship with the EU ahead of the 31 January 2020 Brexit deadline.