The Labour Party that was in power when a diplomatic boycott was imposed on Narendra Modi, the prime-ministerial front-runner in India, now looks forward to engaging with a government headed by him.
The official boycott of Mr. Modi for his failure to stop anti-Muslim rioting in 2002, in which thousands of Muslims including three British citizens were killed, was lifted by Britain in 2012.
Asked by The Hindu on what her party’s expectations from a new government that quite possibly will be headed by Mr. Modi are, Harriet Harman Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Party Chair and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said: “The big expectation from India will be for it to fulfil the democratic mandate of peace and prosperity.”
The Labour Party for reasons both historical and political is more invested in Indian elections and its outcome than any other political party in the UK.
“We have more candidates, members of Parliament, and councillors from black and Asian backgrounds than all of the other parties put together,” Ms. Harman stressed in her brief presentation to a group of journalists from the black and Asian news media at the Labour Party office. It is the only political party “that is of and for the black and Asian communities of this country,” she added.
As a party Labour’s recognition for the popular mandate that a party and its leader receives in these elections in India may be leavened by a sense of caution. Illiberal political leadership in India impacts in manifold ways Labour’s own political constituency in Britain.
However, if elected into government in the 2015 elections, Labour’s policy towards the government in New Delhi will be to put the past away and engage on a fresh basis.
John Spellar, MP for Warely, and a member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the shadow cabinet spelt the position out clearly.
“India has chosen who their leader is and in the event that the exit polls are correct, then the world will work with Mr. Modi, and work with him for the benefit of both stability in that part of the world but also in terms of raising the standard of living of the people of India.”
Some Labour MPs, especially those whose constituencies have large Asian populations, however sounded a note of concern over some of the unresolved issues of Mr. Modi’s past. They are likely to be watchful and vigilant of how the policies of a new government in India could impact their own constituencies.
“Clearly Mr. Modi comes with a reputation, and the fact that he was on the banned list in the UK and the USA for several years is going to present challenges for all the parties, Labour included,” said Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East.
“I know that there are ordinary people in the country —and I have constituents —who have raised concerns about Mr. Modi. But we are living in the real world. All governments have to work with leaders of all parties who have been elected,” she added.
For Kamaljeet Jandu, Labour candidate from London for the European Parliamentary elections, a GMB union member, and a third generation UK-born Indian, the new government that comes to power in India “must recognise the fact that India’s founding constitutional principles are secular,” and address “the overriding issues of access to food, health, education and shelter.” These can be the only basis for a truly productive engagement between India and the UK.