‘Monumental’: British Indians reflect on Rishi Sunak as UK’s first Asian PM

British Indians have shared their “mixed views” on Rishi Sunak’s “incredible achievement” becoming the UK’s first Asian prime minister.

Mr Sunak tendered his resignation as prime minister to the King on Friday morning, with Sir Keir Starmer taking to the lectern outside 10 Downing Street to pay tribute to him for “his achievement as the first British Asian prime minister of our country”.

He added: “The extra effort that that will have required should not be underestimated by anyone.

“We pay tribute to that today.”

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Outgoing Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak gives a speech in Downing Street, London (James Manning/PA)

Mr Sunak was born in 1980 in Southampton to parents of Punjabi descent, and is a practicing Hindu.

For British Indians living across the UK, having a prime minister who represents their community has been inspiring for some, with others feeling as though he could be out of touch.

Amit Champaneri, 40, told the PA news agency he did not think the “incredible achievement” would happen in his lifetime.

“Rishi Sunak becoming the first British Asian prime minister is something my family and I never thought we would see in our lifetime never mind at the time it happened,” Mr Champaneri, who is based in Surrey, said.

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Amit Champaneri said Rishi Sunak becoming the UK’s first Asian prime minister was an ‘incredible achievement’ (Amit Champaneri/PA)

“It is an incredible achievement and will inspire younger generations in years to come, including my daughter.”

He described Mr Sunak’s outgoing speech as prime minister as “dignified, respectful and gracious”.

“Hearing him reflect on his family, culture and referencing Diwali will resonate with so many from the Asian community,” he added.

“His grandparents coming to the UK and (his) parents working so hard to provide him with the opportunities they did not have.

“It is an aspiration that most Asian parents have for their own children.”

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Sir Keir Starmer paid tribute to Rishi Sunak being the first Asian prime minister of the country in a speech outside 10 Downing Street (James Manning/PA)

He applauded new Prime Minister Sir Keir for acknowledging and praising Mr Sunak for the monumental achievement.

“I am also happy that the new Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer referenced what an achievement it was for Rishi to become the first British Asian PM and the extra effort it must taken to get there,” he added.

Priya Aggarwal-Shah, a diversity and inclusion consultant and a communications consultant, told PA she has “mixed views” about Mr Sunak’s tenure as prime minister.

“When Rishi Sunak first became prime minister, it was such a monumental occasion,” the 31-year-old who is based in Watford said.

“It happened during Diwali – there was something really special about an Indian prime minister walking into 10 Downing Street, seeing his shoes outside, the Diyas lit up.

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Priya Aggarwal-Shah said she has ‘mixed views’ about Rishi Sunak’s tenure as prime minister (Priya Aggarwal-Shah/Louise Haywood-Schiefer/PA)

“I felt this immense sense of pride, especially because it was almost full circle, 75 years after India gained independence from Britain and now we have our first Indian prime minister.”

However, she said as he was not elected by the public and was chosen to replace Liz Truss, he was “battling” both a lack of support from the UK populace and his own party.

“I think that maybe made him turn back on his core values and we saw him actually siding with some policies which really didn’t sit that well with me and not calling out racism when it needed to be called out,” she added.

“Over time, I started to disalign with him a little bit and although he was South Asian, he doesn’t really represent the majority of Indians in our society anyway.

“There are some very wealthy Indians in British society, but there’s probably a large number of Indians that weren’t privately schooled, don’t have his level of wealth and are probably just working class and he was really out of touch.”

While she did not hear Sir Keir’s tribute to Mr Sunak, she said it was a “really nice thing to do”.

“I think what he said is right – it is a huge moment to be the first Indian prime minister of Britain,” she added.

“You would never imagine it happen so soon in our lifetime and I think that is something that should be celebrated for sure.

“Rishi should be proud of that and I think Keir Starmer did the right thing by thanking him and celebrating him.”

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