First Indian in race to become UK’s next PM

Rapid rise for Sunak from banker to top contender for PM

Diaspora

July 24, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

First Indian in race to become UK’s next PM

Rishi Sunak is one step away from becoming the first Person of Indian Origin to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Photo: Twitter)

Former Chancellor of the British Exchequer Rishi Sunak is now only one step away from becoming the first Person of Indian Origin Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as he faces off his former colleague, Liz Truss in the final round of voting that will be held over the next month as over 160,000 members of the party vote to elect their chief. Whether Sunak wins the contest or not, his journey so close to 10 Downing Street is a huge motivation for millions of other members of Indian diaspora, not just in the UK, but across the globe.

5/5 - (19 votes)

On Thursday as the British Conservative Party MPs voted to choose their next leader and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the two expected finalists were Rishi Sunak, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and former British foreign secretary Liz Truss. Sunak held on his lead in the contest in the parliamentary party, bagging 137 votes in all.

Now, the two names will be put forward to the broad membership of the British Conservative Party, who will vote over a period of almost five weeks to decide who will replace the outgoing party leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the head of the party and move into 10 Downing Street.

Sunak’s run in the prime ministerial contest has been watched closely not just in the United Kingdom or Europe, but here in India as well since he has come tantalisingly close to becoming the first person of Indian origin to lead one of the biggest economies in the world, a member of the G7 nations as well as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations.

That Sunak harboured ambitions to replace his former leader in the top chair was no surprise to anyone, especially after he quit his position as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, last month and almost immediately declared his intention to run for the position of UK Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, just a day after Johnson tendered his resignation. In his resignation letter, Sunak said that, “the public rightly expects government to be run professionally, competently, and seriously”. “I believe these values are worth fighting for, which is why I am retiring,” Sunak added.

Sunak began his campaign by posting a polished video to social media in which he highlighted his Indian ancestry and stated that his “family is everything” to him. The Tory leader emphasised the traditional conservative ideals of “patriotism, justice, and hard work” and stated that his goals were to “establish trust, rebuild the economy, and reunite the country”.

If Sunak is chosen as prime minister, UK will become the fifth nation in the world, besides Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, Fiji to lead a country other than India. Mauritius has been led by Indian origin persons right from the time it gained independence and currently both the President and Prime Minister are PIOs.

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Road to 10 Downing Street

At 42 years, Sunak’s journey to the top has not been a long one, though it may not have been as easy as it sounds now. He was born in Southampton, England and raised in Indian diaspora in Southeast Africa. His great-grandparents, who were born in Punjab and fled to East Africa, eventually settled in Britain in the 1960s.

Belonging to a rich family, he got the best of elitist education including  graduating from Stanford University, Oxford University, and the exclusive private school Winchester College, where he earned his MBA. According to his resume, he began his career working as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs and other hedge funds. He then worked for The Children’s Investment Fund Management, a hedge fund management company, where he was made a partner in September 2006. He resigned in November 2009 to join former co-workers at Theleme Partners, a new hedge fund company that opened in October 2010 and had USD 700 million under management. In 2009, Sunak wed Akshata Murty, billionaire daughter and heir of founder of software giant Infosys, N R Narayan Murthy.  He also served as a director of Catamaran Ventures, an investment company run by his father-in-law.

In October 2014, Sunak was chosen as the Conservative candidate for Richmond (Yorks) seat in British Parliament and bagged the seat easily and began his political career. An early proponent of Brexit, his career took off as he was appointed as a junior minister by the then PM Theresa May. Sunak was rewarded with the position of Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2019 for supporting Boris Johnson‘s bid for the Tory leadership. He was elevated to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer in February 2020 following a cabinet reshuffle, which placed him third among ministers, just behind the deputy prime minister and the prime minister.

When the coronavirus pandemic raged over the world and lockdowns were enacted in the UK, the newly elected chancellor was confronted with the difficult task of managing the economy. He announced a generous financial rescue package, aimed at British industry as well as the citizens, pledging to “do everything it takes” for UK citizens, which significantly increased his personal poll ratings. His pricey job retention policy avoided mass unemployment, and he received acclaim for it.

The MPs will continue the voting through next month and the final result will be announced on September 5. Sunak the Prime Minister may still be some way away, but he has already made history as has the British society by holding one of the most inclusive and diverse leadership elections in the world.

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