Friends of the BJP favoring Conservatives try to sway UK votes?

They are allegedly exploiting Kashmir to run a wedge between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the UK
UK Election
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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has made extensive plans to take the now waning Modi wave to the United Kingdom and has partially succeeded. Even UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has gone on record to say that he is convinced he will see a person of Indian origin become the PM of the UK in his lifetime.

Last week it was revealed that the Overseas Friends of BJP UK (OFBJP), one among the many Hindutva groups in the country, called on the 1.4 million British Indians to refuse to let the main opposition, the Labour Party come to power, after its criticism regarding Modi’s autocratic shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir and the abrogation of Article 370, the CNN reported.

Hindus in the UK

The United Kingdom (UK) is a beloved destination of the Indians. No wonder, since the popularity of the country has soared with the Indians making up 2.3% of the total population. The Religion Media Centre recorded a total population of 816,633 Hindus in England and Wales (1.5% of the total population) according to the last census in 2011; a number which has grown from 552,421 (1.06%) in 2001.

In Scotland, Hindus made up 0.31% of the population in 2011, up from 0.11% in 2001.

In 2011, Hinduism became the fourth largest religious group after Christianity (59%), no religion (25%) and Islam (5%) with more than 97% of the Hindu population living in urban areas, more than half of which reside in London and the South East.

Harrow, in Greater London, England, has the highest concentration of Hindus in the UK with 25.3% which has seen the largest rise in the local Hindu population between 2001 and 2011, followed by Brent with 17.8%.

Outside of London, most of the Hindu population is concentrated in Leicester (6.1%). 96% of UK Hindus say that they are from an Asian ethnic background, with 84.5% identifying them as Indian.

Pressure groups and pressure tactics

Kuldeep Singh Shekhawat’s OFBJP, run by BJP’s external affairs department, is what one can call a UK-based-pressure group, which has now imported Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to the UK. This of course has been slammed by critics who say he is promoting radicalism at the expense of the India’s diverse minority groups.

Now, the OFBJP is targeting the Labour Party because in September it passed a resolution that supported “international intervention in Kashmir and a call for a UN led-referendum.”

The motion, submitted by the Blackburn, Dudley North, Keighley, Stockport and Wakefield constituency Labour parties condemned “”the recent actions of the Government of India to revoke Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution and the special status” granted to Kashmir, India Today reported.

Following this, over a 100 British Indian organizations slammed Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (UK), BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (UK) and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (UK) among others expressing dismay that his party had moved over the long-standing position that Kashmir was a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan.


The backlash by these Hindu outfits led to the Labour party’s President Ian Lavery issued a letter officially taking a U-turn on Jeremy’s statement. He said that Labour was opposed to external interference in the political affairs of any other country and would not adopt any anti-India or anti-Pakistan position over Kashmir.

Even this failed to quell the anger of the UK-based Hindu groups.

Trupti Patel, President of the Hindu Forum of Britain, told the CNN, “The issue here is Jeremy Corbyn [the Labour Party leader] is anti-India and anti-Hindu.” “If you want to play the politics of voting blocs, then let’s play the politics of voting blocs,” Patel said, adding that the Hindu Forum would be pushing Hindus to vote for anyone but Labour.

British Hindus are also now being targeted and played on by radical Hindu outfits supporting the BJP in the UK by WhatsApp messages. The messages, reported The Guardian, include videos by far-right anti-Muslim activists and have raised fears of exploiting tensions between British Pakistanis and Indians.

One message said: “The Labour party is now the mouth-piece of the Pakistani government … It is anti-India, anti-Hindu and anti-[Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So if there are any Indians who are still voting for Labour, or are still members of the Labour party – then respectfully I say, they are traitors to their ancestral land, to their family and friends in India and to their cultural heritage.”

The tactic of the OFBJP was unearthed when Shekhawat at a Diwali celebration at the House of Commons in October said that BJP supporters in Britain are actively campaigning for the Tories in 48 marginal seats in the UK general election on December 12, by telling Indian-origin voters to not vote for the Labour party. He claimed that the British Indian vote could swing up to 40 seats and affect the outcome of the election.

Speaking to The Times of India about why he openly supported the BJP he said, “We are doing this for three reasons. Firstly some Labour MPs joined the violent protests outside India House on August 15 and September 3. Secondly, no Labour MP spoke in favour of India in the House of Commons on Kashmir, and thirdly because of the Labour motion on Kashmir passed at their party conference.”

He added that the party had boycotted six Indian-origin Labour MPs – Keith Vaz, Valerie Vaz, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Preet Gill, Lisa Nandy and Seema Malhotra for some of them had a ‘Khalistani’ tag and weren’t looking at India as a sovereign nation.

OFBJP has been targeting temples and community centers among other places to spread its message to vote for Tories. Even the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT) has been mobilizing its Hindu followers in favour of the Tories journalist Sunny Hundal told The Print.

“During the 2015 and 2017 election campaigns, they sent out emails to their followers, asking them to vote for Conservatives”, he said.


Hundal told ThePrint that he had reported NCHT to the Charity Commission in 2015 and 2017 and that following his complaint, the group was pulled by the commission and was forced to withdraw its statement. He plans to complain against the NCHT once again.

Are the Hindu hardliners likely to get away with their plot?

The OFBJP has already bagged Bob Blackman, the Tory candidate from Harrow East, obviously as 26.4% of the population in his constituency are British Indians. They are also supporting British-Bangladeshi Dr. Anwara Ali from Harrow West, who is fighting to overturn a 13,314 Labour majority.

Blackman has been accused of being Islamophobic after sharing an anti-Muslim post on Facebook by far-right activist Tommy Robinson.

A study by the Runnymede Trust on the voting patterns of the Black and minority ethnic (BME) groups found that in 2010, when 68% of BME voters chose Labour, Indian voters were at 61%, just a percent higher than 60% of Pakistani voters who supported Labour too. Last year, the votes of the ethnic minority group to the Labour party grew to 77%, but the Indian voters’ support for the Conservative party rose to about 40% and fell to about 55% for Labour.

It is unclear whether the OFBJP is receiving its funding from the BJP, but it has been a mouthpiece of the BJP by being the organiser for major public events held in the UK during PM Modi’s visit.

Still, there are hopefuls who think that Hindu radicalists won’t get their way around Britain’s constituencies that are comprised of a mix of ethnic groups. Britain’s minorities don’t vote homogenously and it is likely that foreign policy issues like Kashmir will compel them to switch parties. Nor would seat targeting be a nationally viable electoral strategy, according to Omar Khan, head of the Runnymede Trust. “In all of Britain, there are around 15 seats where Indians are even 15% of the population, so there’s not enough to swing it,” (to a large Conservative majority), Khan said.

Even Hundal, who has been following the developments closely say that BJP supporting groups are exploiting the fake rumours of the Labour Party being Hinduphobic. “It is not important whether they will have a substantial electoral impact, but what this would do to the fabric of Hindu-Muslim relations in the country,” he said.


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