Rishi Sunak will become the UK’s first Hindu prime minister and the first prime minister of Asian descent, after winning the leadership of the unopposed Conservatives
Sir Graham Brady, who as Chairman of the 1922 Committee of the backbench conservatives overseeing the competition, said they received only one valid nomination form.
“Rishi Sunak is therefore elected as the next leader of the Conservative Party,” he said.
What religion is Rishi Sunak?
Sunak is a practicing Hindu and takes an oath on the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit text. He was born in 1980 in Southampton to parents of Punjabi origin. His grandparents were born in India and emigrated to the UK from East Africa in the 1960s.
Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said: “It will be a historic moment if Rishi Sunak becomes our first Indian and Hindu British Prime Minister, showing that the highest office in Britain can be open to those of all faiths and ethnic origins.
“It will be a source of pride for many British Asians – including many who do not share Rishi Sunak’s conservative policies. Most people in Britain rightly say that the Prime Minister’s ethnicity and faith should not matter. They will judge Sunak if he can master the job at a very difficult time.
“But we should not underestimate this important social change.”
He pointed out that when Sunak was born, there had been no Asian or black MPs in the post-war period.
What did he say about religion?
Sunak has spoken openly about being Hindu, saying in a 2015 interview with Business Standard: “British Indian is what I tick on the census, we have a category for that. I’m completely British, it’s my home and my country, but my religious and cultural heritage is Indian, my wife is Indian.I am open to being Hindu.
Sunak’s successful bid to be the new Prime Minister takes place during diwalia Hindu religious festival celebrated around the world and symbolizing the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
The Hindu Forum of Britain tweeted that Sunak had written to the group to share his best wishes with those celebrating Diwali, and said they in return wished him “every success on this auspicious day”.
Ahead of his election, the 1928 Institute, a British Indian think tank backed by Oxford University, said it was “incredible” to see Sunak “close” to the Conservative premiership.
A spokesperson said: ‘Many of our grandparents were British subjects and now to see someone of Indian descent in the highest post in the UK would be truly inspiring. Mr Sunak’s rise shows how far the British Indian community has come, and we hope it will serve as an inspiration to the next generation; although some will still attack Rishi Sunak for his legacy.
“Breaking this glass ceiling is a major achievement, but we need more diversity in our government. We will judge Rishi by his policies and hope our shared values across the Diaspora such as seva are part of his leadership.
Krishna Halai, 27, head of operations in technology in London, said: “I can celebrate a Hindu prime minister given the history of British colonization in India, we are breaking down barriers in politics. But Rishi in particular and some of the Indian/Hindu POCs [people of colour] in ministerial positions, I don’t think I’m representing myself and the kind of politics that our families stood for when they came to this country.
Asked if the significance of Mr Sunak’s appointment as Prime Minister would also resonate in India, she said: “Yes, absolutely – the British diaspora are communicating with their family in India, WhatsApp groups will be buzzing photos and posts about it. I don’t know if it helps to strengthen the relationship between the UK and India, but people will see it as a big step forward.
She added that Sunak becoming prime minister “will not solve the underlying structures that make it so difficult for people like us to achieve these positions in the first place.”