Why does Sunak attract an aspirational India?

If Sunak doesn’t win his bid for the UK premiership, and Harris loses hers for the American presidency, they could be cast aside forever.

Sunil Sharan

Sunil Sharan

The Statesman


Photo: IANS

August 10, 2022

NEW DELHI – Rishi Sunak is in the race to be the UK’s next prime minister. Indian media is awash with Rishi. TV channels are carrying live his endless debates with his challenger, Liz Truss. Why this unholy obsession with Rishi? It’s almost as if the colony is striking back at the empire. Once we were ruled by palefaces, now our kind is going to rule over palefaces. It’s another big thumbs up for Arriving India. India has well and truly arrived on the world stage. The hyperpower of our age, the United States, has a woman of Indian origin, Kamala Harris, one heartbeat from becoming the most powerful person in the world. Now, the UK, the very soul of carrying the white man’s burden, is about to be besmirched but for the good. And our ancient land, India, is very happy about that. Nehru and Maulana Azad set up the IITs, whose sole purpose has been to export their students to the US, where they are becoming CEOs of Google, Twitter, Microsoft and what not.

A poor country like India is subsidizing a rich country like America. Can you recollect one global accomplishment that an IITian who stayed back in India has achieved? Or maybe all the IITians fled to the US? Any other government would have restrained its investments in the IITs. But the Indian governments, both the Congress’s and the BJP’s, continue their growth unabated. It doesn’t bother the powers that be that India cannot accommodate so many and such high-class engineers. But the powers that be don’t care. When they go to the US, they get to interact with the Indian-origin CEOs and marvel at their own educational system for producing such gems. Their political counterparts, the ones with whom they do all the hugging and the embracing, marvel at Indian talent. Our powers that be beam like proud parents. Nobody asks where lies the loyalty of the Indian-origin CEOs. Most of them are American citizens. Even if they were not, ask them to return to India as Nehru lured Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai.

Nah, they’ll say. We are happy to be in the promised land. Here we get to have it both ways. We get to work on cutting-edge stuff and we also get feted by Indians. In India, the bureaucracy will kill us and we would be one amongst a crowd. Our powers that be give an understanding nod and promise to build more IITs so that they can build America. Rishi Sunak’s parents came to the US by way of Africa, so even Africa has a claim to him. He has gone far in the prime ministerial race, but will he breast the tape? Truss is a formidable opponent. Plus she’s white. In the end, it might boil down to just that. A billion Indian hearts would have been broken. Sunak is rare for a second-generation Indian immigrant in the West in the sense that he’s married to a firstgeneration immigrant, the daughter of Narayana Murthy, the Indian billionaire of Infosys fame. In general, the second-generation crowd steers clear of the first generation, who they commonly refer to as fresh off boats (FOBs). The FOBs return the favour, calling the second generation as ABCDs (American Born Confused Desis) or in the case of Sunak, an EBCD (English Born Confused Desi).

Sunak might be an English-born Desi, but he’s certainly now confused. His heart and soul lies with the UK. Not so his wife’s though. She still retains her Indian citizenship and hopes to move to India one day. How does her lack of fidelity with the UK rest with the British electorate? Time will tell shortly. Sunak and his wife met at Stanford’s MBA programme. An MBA programme has sometimes been described in jest as a two-year dating society. But they seem to be compatible. Moreover, Sunak got his digs into his wife’s riches and she chose someone who could be the ruler of the UK one day. One should hail their amazing foresight. Across the pond, Kamala Harris seems to have gone underground. After flubbing difficult assignments like controlling the American southern border handed to her by Joe Biden, she seems to have had a talk with her boss. Now he sends her off to countries near and far that he doesn’t care to visit.

Biden’s age and health are the topics of endless gossip in America. He is 79, and by the time 2024 rolls around, when he would be seeking his second term, he will be 82. The US has never had a president that old. He has a pronounced stutter, which makes it seem that he’s mangling his words. His gait is slow and his hair is thinning. Some in the Democratic Party don’t want him to run in 2024. But Biden bristles at the thought. He wants to run. Harris’s star should be shining brighter with Biden’s difficulties. But such has not been the case. Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay American transportation secretary, has been stealing the limelight from her. He has a defined mandate, unlike Harris who as VP, is completely beholden to Biden for whatever she does. Buttigieg is 40 and articulate. He makes for a study in contrast with Biden. But Harris is not giving up so easily. 2024 might well see her battling Buttigieg for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination.

As VP, she would of course see that as her right. But right and wrong do not matter much in politics. If Sunak doesn’t win his bid for the UK premiership, and Harris loses hers for the American presidency, they could be cast aside forever. Politics is not one for the faint of heart. Instead of rejoicing then, Sunak’s and Harris’s one billion Indian fans could find themselves moping. As Nehru said in his speech, A Tryst with Destiny, a moment comes, which comes but rarely in history. If Sunak and Harris lose out, when would the next moment come that would gladden the hearts of Indian gladiators everywhere?

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