Amidst rich nations facing existential challenge, the UK has just got in Rishi Sunak, the first Indian-origin Prime Minister, who calls himself a “proud Hindu” who took oath on the Bhagavad Gita after becoming an MP and has become the first person of colour to occupy this chair. The 42-years old is the youngest UK PM in two centuries, the country’s third prime minister in three months and its fifth in just over six years. It is a reflection of deep problems in the economy.
The Cover Story in Tehelka this time is by Gopal Misra “Economic Crisis Hits Europe” as the Rich Nations Face Existential Challenges. Misra writes that the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is such a perilous affair that has not only plunged nearly one third of Ukraine into darkness, with acute shortage of drinking water but a dead winter awaits Europe which is facing existential crisis. It has ushered in a winter of rising discontent for the people in different parts of Europe. They are getting themselves warmed up by burning biomass. In Poland, in villages, trees are being cut to obtain logs for heating purposes. In France, the rationing of petrol has already begun. In Germany, the traffic lights are being closed down during night to save energy. In the UK, restaurants are closing down due to the use of power restrictions. In Spain, there is a blanket ban on the use of air-conditioners and its violation has been made an offence.
In such a scenario, one section that is upbeat is the diaspora which finds in Rishi Sunak’s elevation, a man of Indian origin ruling over the former colonial rulers. His ascendancy to 10 Downing Street after Liz Truss’ blink-and-you-miss-it truncated tenure as the UK Prime Minister is indeed a watershed in contemporary British history. Earlier, her predecessor Boris Johnson faced an ignominious exit in the wake of alleged inept handling of the coronavirus pandemic to allegations of corruption, cronyism and the cost-of-living crisis pushing erstwhile colonial rulers below India on the economic front.
Shakespeare’s famous lines, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” are most befitting for Sunak who himself has described that UK is facing a ‘profound economic challenge’ with estimated budget deficit of $45 billion and growing inflation of around 10 per cent and recessionary trends. Challenges for Sunak are daunting but in his first speech as PM, he emphasised he is “not daunted”. Let it not be just the plain euphoria.
A key takeaway of Sunak’s ascendancy to 10 Downing Street is that people can look beyond colour and creed to embrace competence to meet the new challenges. India has for long shown to the world that the nation can be better run with presidents and prime ministers from minority communities and humble backgrounds.