With the political crisis unfolding in the United Kingdom (UK) after Boris Johnson’s resignation and his relegation to caretaker Prime Minister (PM), Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister, is among one of the favourites to replace Johnson as the next British premier. If it happens, the 42-year-old could become the first Indian-origin prime minister of the UK.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Home Secretary Priti Patel, and Suella Braverman who is another Indian-origin MP are other frontrunners for the top job. Sunak resigned as finance minister on Tuesday stating that the British public justly expects the government to function properly, seriously and competently.
He was praised for a COVID-19 economic rescue package, comprising an expensive jobs retention programme that averted mass unemployment in the country. However, Sunak was also criticised for not providing enough cost-of-living support to households. His standing was damaged by revelations about his wealthy wife’s non-domicile tax status and a fine he received, along with Johnson, for violating the COVID lockdown rules.
Who is Rishi Sunak? What's His Indian Connection?
Born in the UK's Southhampton area to an Indian family, Rishi Sunak is the son of a pharmacist mother and a National Health Service (NHS) general practitioner (GP) father. His grandparents are from Punjab. According to reports, Sunak's family migrated to seek a better life in East Africa, but when the trouble started in the region amid widespread sentiments against Indians, his grandfather shifted base to Britain. Sunak is an Oxford University and Stanford graduate. He is married to Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy’s daughter Akshata Murty. The couple who tied the knot in 2009 has two daughters, Anoushka and Krishna.
Rishi Sunak’s Initial Innings In UK Politics
Sunak first became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 2015 after he got elected from Richmond, Yorkshire. He swiftly rose through the ranks of the Conservative party and supported calls for ‘Brexit’. Sunak was among Johnson’s supporters during his ‘leave EU’ campaign. He created history in February 2020 when he was designated as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which is the most important UK Cabinet post.
Sunak became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic for his economic package to support employees and businesses comprising a jobs retention programme, which reportedly averted mass unemployment in the UK.
But, Sunak’s fame took a hit after the ‘partygate’ scandal, violating COVID-19 norms and organising lockdown parties at government offices. This eventually led to a crisis in the Johnson government.
Sunak also faced blistering criticism for his wealthy wife’s non-domiciled tax status. The tax status permits a person who was born in another country, or if their parent is from another country, to pay tax in the UK only on the income they earn in the country. It was revealed that Akshata, who is still an Indian national, had non-domiciled status in the UK. This allowed her to avoid paying tax on her overseas earnings as she considered returning to India to live there. According to reports, Akshata's status as a non-domicile let her save around 20 million pounds in taxes on dividends from the shares she held in India’s second largest IT company - Infosys.
Ever since Sunak took charge as Chancellor, there has been a lot of conjecture within the UK media about him eyeing the post of prime minister.
Regardless, the UK will have a new premier in office from October and Sunak might become the first Indian-origin man to run the country and the party.