Britain’s newest Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would have been a backbencher in Indian politics, believes Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.
In an exclusive conversation with CNBC-TV18 on Tuesday, Tharoor said that Britain is looking for a safe pair of hands.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP, who was trolled on social media earlier in the day after commenting that it is “very rare” for a member of a “visible minority” like Sunak to occupy a country’s “most powerful office” and wondering whether it can happen in India, said that “if a country like Britain is able to do it, we should learn our lessons from them”.
Conservatives went for Sunak, overlooking race and other compulsions, he said.
“There will be political challenges, but the Labour Party calling for elections is predictable,” said Tharoor. “The Conservatives want to give themselves a chance as they are in majority.”
Britain’s economy, public, and markets need to rally behind Sunak, he added.
There is a sense in the Boris Johnson camp, said Tharoor, that Sunak betrayed them. He so far has managed all these challenges in the short run, added the Congress leader.
Liz Truss’s resignation was something that the Conservative Party demanded, he said, adding that Sunak will be acceptable within the Conservatives as long as the economy revives.
The Indian diaspora has done remarkably well, Tharoor observed, maintaining that merit needs to be recognised before race and religion.
“There’ll be a certain affinity towards India but I don’t think policies will be made keeping the India connect in mind,” he said about the Sunak administration. “Sunak will have to tailor policies as per his own country’s priorities.”
He also said that concerns about the free trade agreement with the United Kingdom will remain on the table.
“There was a lot of optimism about the FTA with India, which has come down a bit,” he said.
There will be some tough negotiating, said Tharoor, adding that it’s unlikely the UK will soften due to the PM’s India connect.
“We must give Rishi Sunak his space,” said the Congress MP. “We can’t look at Sunak as an Indian in 10 Downing Street.”
Tharoor also said that he expects Sunak to hit the ground running and he was an effective Chancellor of the Exchequer.
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