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How Hindu Voters In UK Hold A Key Role In Elections?

| Updated: July 4, 2024 13:31

As the United Kingdom (UK) votes on July 4, a lesser-known fact is that Indian citizens living in Britain can also vote. The community has released a ‘Hindu manifesto’ and its candidates are part of the electoral fray.

The UK is home to 1.8 million Indian diaspora, which can, therefore, help determine the electoral outcome.

The influence of Hindus in the UK is also seeing a change. British Hindus, the third-largest religious group in England, are already an influential community in the UK. Now, the community is asserting its political voice more than ever before, and politicians from both sides of the divide are wooing its members. Ahead of the election in the UK, 29 Hindu organisations released ‘The Hindu Manifesto UK 2024’.

Among the seven key demands of the manifesto, released on June 8, was the demand to recognise anti-Hindu hate as a religious hate crime.

This was the first time that British Hindus had come together to put forward demands for the community, which is well aware of its strength.

There are around 1 million people in Britain who identify themselves as Hindus, according to the 2021 Census. This makes the community quite a sizeable electorate in the July 4 general election.

Both Labour and Conservatives are trying to corner the community’s votes. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the Conservative Party’s leader, and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer visited temples to woo British Hindu voters. The Labour Party, which had a fallout with Indians, is trying to attract Desi votes.

The Labour Party is leading the UK race and has committed to deal with anti-India sentiments in the party ranks. It has also tried to build strategic relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.

The Hindu Manifesto shows the importance of the number of Hindu voters and the prominence they hold within the UK.

“[Anti-Hindu hate] Hinduphobia is a set of antagonistic, destructive, and derogatory attitudes and behaviours towards s Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and Hindus that may manifest as prejudice, fear, or hatred,” reads the Manifesto.

They have also given the example of Hinduphobic hate prevalent in the UK, from blaming the Hindu religion for all the vices in Indian society to abetting or normalising the killing of Hindus.

The document also discussed the organisations in the UK responsible for hate crimes against Hindus.

“Organisations such as the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and International Sikh Youth Federation have been involved in various acts of violence against UK Hindus and Indians or have committed acts of terrorism aimed at de-establishing India and promoting separatist agendas,” reads the Manifesto.

It also discusses candidate expectations, such as recognising anti-Hindu hate crimes, taking actions against all forms of racism and monitoring organisations responsible for hate crime.

This shows how the British Hindu community, which is a million in number and three percent of the entire population, are important in the 2024 UK elections.

The Labour Party and the Indian diaspora have not always been aligned. They had a falling out after then Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had given a controversial statement on Kashmir. But the Labour Party has tried to rebuild its relationship with India under the leadership of Keir Starmer.

Starmer visited the Swaminarayan Temple in Kingsbury on June 28 to reiterate his commitment to building a “strategic partnership with India”.

The Labour Party is now backing more Desi candidates in the July 4 general election. They have also fielded several first-time Indian-origin candidates.

Navendu Mishra is the candidate from Stockport. Preet Kaur Gill, the first British Sikh female MP, was re-elected from Edgbaston in 2019 and is the Shadow Minister for Primary Care and Public Health.

The number of Indian-origin MPs in the Conservative Party is no less.

Shailesh Vara has won his North West Cambridgeshire seat since May 2005. Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, and Priti Patel, MP for Witham, have won continuously since 2010. Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond (Yorkshire) in 2015, is the British Prime Minister.

Indian-origin MPs have actively addressed the issues of the diaspora. Anti-Hindu hate has come out to be a key problem as the Henry Jackson society reported cases of discrimination in schools.

The issue of immigration remains central to the Indian community. Indian-origin MPs have advocated for streamlining of the visa process, work permit applications and other procedures.

The Labour Party has also tried to bring in social welfare programmes to help poorer sections of the Indian community.

Recent immigrants to the UK are also enthused and ready to vote.

“In my country, they don’t allow people from other countries to vote. I came here on a student visa, but they are giving us an opportunity, like British citizens,” Prathesh Paulraj from India told Reuters in Britain.

With British Hindus asserting themselves and making their demands clear with the ‘Hindu Manifesto’, both sides have taken note.

“This mandir stands as a great statement of the contributions that this community makes to Britain,” said Rishi Sunak in his speech at the Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden. With the Conservatives trailing in opinion polls, Sunak, an Indian-origin politician, is banking heavily on British Hindu votes.

“Education, hard work, family, those are my values. Those are your values. Those are Conservative values,” he said.

Labour leader Keir Starmer refused to be left behind in the wooing game.

“If we’re elected next week, we will strive to govern in the spirit of sewa to serve you and a world in need,” said Starmer at the Swaminarayan Temple, reiterating his promise of “absolutely no place for Hinduphobia in Britain”.

Labour has taken note of the demands of the community. It will be known soon how the influential British Hindus align themselves politically in the July 4 election, and make the party in power in the UK fulfil its promises. 

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