Brexit: Focus on India as Theresa May invites prominent Indians to reception after poll announcement

London:  Prime Minister Theresa May's first public meeting after declaring general election on 8 June will be a Baisakhi reception she is hosting at 10 Downing Street, her official residence.

British Prime Minister Theresa May. AP

British Prime Minister Theresa May. AP

The British media is eagerly waiting for the speech she will deliver at the event later on Tuesday. Prominent members of the Indian community like Rami Ranger CBE, a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party, will attend the reception.

In the last general election, the Indian community, especially the Sikhs, supported the Conservative candidates despite the controversy over the Thatcher administration's role in Operation Blue Star -- the 1984 storming of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army to flush out separatist Khalistani militants.

Prime Minister David Cameron then took a series of visits to gurudwaras at major Sikh habitats to regain support.

The support of the 1.5 million strong Indian community is very crucial for winning the marginal seats.

The race will be three-pronged as the recharged Liberal Democrats are seeking votes on a Brexit agenda. Sikhs are crucial in many constituencies.

British Indians, along with other minority communities in Britain, have historically voted for the Labour Party.

In 2010, for instance, 61 percent of the Indian-origin votes went to Labour candidates in the general election.

But one recent report by the British Election Study said that in 2014 only 18 per cent of Indian-origin voters identified with the Labour Party, compared to 77 percent in 1997.

Another survey found that 50 percent supported the Conservative Party in 2015 while 38 percent supported Labour.

Along religious lines, nearly 49 per cent Hindus and Sikhs favoured the Tories as compared to 41 per cent for Labour. That is why Prime Minister May is making it a point to laud Sikhs.

"As Sikhs across the globe take part in spectacular processions, and neighbourhoods and gurdwaras burst forth with colour, I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the immense contribution British Sikhs make to our country," May said in her Baisakhi message.

"Whether it's in the fields of business, the armed forces or the charitable sector, you consistently follow the pillars of your faith and in so doing set an example to us all."

"Your values -- of equality and respect, of fairness and helping those less fortunate than yourselves -- are values we need more than ever, as we forge a new, ambitious, role for Britain in the world," the Prime Minister said.

"I am determined to build a country that works for everyone; a country where no matter who you are, you can achieve your goals, and the Sikh community is a vital part of that mission."

By choosing the Sikh community to deliver the first policy speech after declaring general election, May shows the importance of Sikhs in the diversified tapestry of Britain.

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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2017 22:21:47 IST

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