The handshake between Charles III and Rishi Sunak at Buckingham Palace on October 24, 2022 officially marks the entry into office of the new head of government. It is the first appointment at 10 Downing Street, made by Elizabeth II's successor.
It is the first time that a politician of Indian descent has become the head of a British government. Rishi Sunak's parents were born in Africa and emigrated to the UK in the 1960s.
Moreover, the Indian press did not pass over the historic event: “Barely more than seventy years after a British monarch had affixed his signature to an act liberating the land of the ancestors of Rishi Sunak, it is a politician of Indian origin who will now be writing the speeches given from the throne,” notes The Hindustan Times.
“Having a Hindu inside 10 Downing Street is astonishing, and arouses great joy, especially when it happens on the very day of Diwali,” says Satish Verma, owner of a supermarket in Delhi. Diwali is the Hindu festival that celebrates Krishna's victory over darkness and fear.
Rishi Sunak has never hidden the fact that he is a devout Hindu. When he was appointed deputy, he insisted on taking the oath on the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most sacred religious texts in India, whose Sanskrit title means “Song of the Lord.”
Sunak's Hindu identity was celebrated by a tweet from the Indian Prime Minister himself: “My warmest congratulations to Rishi Sunak. Your appointment as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is an opportunity to work together to strengthen our strategic partnership.… All my wishes on the occasion of Diwali, to the one who embodies the living bridge between the United Kingdom and India.”
Narendra Modi's reaction did not leave the new head of the British government indifferent: “Thank you, Prime Minister for your delicate words on the occasion of my taking office. India and the UK have so much to share. I look forward to seeing how our two great democracies will deepen and perfect their partnership on security, defense, and the economy in the months and years to come.”
Incidentally, the fact that a British Prime Minister grants a certificate of democracy to a regime which has made the eradication of Christians, and more broadly of everything that is not Hindu, its official political program is darkly ironic.
This is a paradox that caused Collin Pruett, columnist at The American Conservative and member of Arsenal Media Group, an Internet broadcaster considered to be on “the right,” to react in an ironic tweet: “A Hindu Prime Minister is now responsible for advising King Charles on appointments to the Church of England. Britain is dead.” And in a second tweet: “Opposition leader Keir Starmer is an atheist. Charles III should depose Parliament.”
Beyond the controversy, the new British Prime Minister, a Brexiter from the start, who many believe was elected by default, is taking the reins of a country facing a serious economic and social crisis. Inflation exceeds 10%, the highest rate among G7 countries.