All posts by lakshmikaul

A journalism and human rights graduate, Lakshmi specialises in development communications and social media campaigning. A community worker, activist and a mum, Lakshmi encourages women of all age groups to bring out their strengths and use them for their own development as well as community development. “My heart and soul is in community work and people are my strength. I dream of building several role models and leaders in my community”, says Lakshmi.

It came at a price…The Right to Vote

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It came at a price…The Right to Vote!
(Published in Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar, dated: 23 April 2015)

We live in eruptive times. These are the times of no patience that warrant instant results. Close on the heels of the General Election 2015, we see a heightened (even manic) political activism. Whilst a number of you may find the election fervour exciting and are totally switched on about the minute by minute developments in the world of politics and campaigning; for a number of others, it is just a blur.

Last week I read Lord Popat’s article titled “This election is about you” and he highlighted the struggle of immigrants from East Africa in the 1970s. I felt a strange weight upon me, reading the words: “Imagine living for fifty years and never having the right to say who should be in Government.” I also happened to witness the “I am an Immigrant” campaign go up at tube stations. I have been attending hustings and have read through the many manifestos spelt out by various communities. While it is heartening to see so much activism and awareness on ‘our rights’ and ‘our demands’, it saddens me to then hear from members of public: “I don’t believe in politics” or “There is no point in voting because everyone is just the same”.

IMG_9834As a resident, tax payer and a responsible member of the British Indian society, I feel it is my personal and moral responsibility to vote. Not because I am always in the minority, seeking representation. Or because I am an immigrant and I wish to prove my contribution. As a woman, a mother and a community worker, I take it upon myself as a special duty to ensure there is adequate discussion on the importance of the Right of Vote.

I would like to reach out to fellow ladies reading this article, all of you need to realise that today the vote that we so callously dismiss has cost many of our predecessors their lives. Some of you will recall that it was not until the Equal Franchise Act was passed in 1928 that women won the same voting rights as men. It was, until that time, a privilege left to very few members of the male fraternity to be able to vote and to voice opinion.

While we may want magic solutions to economic crisis, increasing population, environmental degradation and employment figures, as a mother I would like to remind you that it takes 9 months for us to nurture and give birth to a life and many years followed on from there to shape them into responsible adults. What we sow today, we will reap tomorrow. However, if we choose NOT to sow, we shall not be in a position to reap at all!

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Let’s keep it simple and sow today. The Right of Vote gives us not just the power but places upon us the responsibility to be good citizens. Let us not be part of the statistic that says we DID NOT shoulder our responsibility in the democratic process. Today men and women both share the responsibility to uphold this democratic process and ensure the vote isn’t wasted.

I read this graffiti somewhere and it has stuck with me: “It’s a man’s world….unless women vote”.

lakshmi kaulLakshmi Kaul
Community Activist & Chair of Public Relations – Hindu Forum of Britain
Twitter: @KaulLakshmi

Why I vote Conservative: People Speak

I vote Conservative because….

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“Based on their past record of sustained economic growth, they are the only party that seems to have a blue-print for the future.”

-Ricardo Premchand

“Tshanoo razdanhey are the party who support pluralism and provides a peaceful society where everyone is treated equally – a need of the hour, looking at religious extremities in other countries. Besides this, all the other economic policies and progress.”

– Shanoo Razdan

vivek kaul“Despite getting pay a freeze over years, I feel that the Tories have done their utmost to reduce the National debt and handled the effects of credit crunch admirably.”
– Dr. Vivek Kaul

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– Vishal Saproo

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The economy is moving in the right direction. And Conservatives encourage small businesses.”

– Girish Bellur

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“Theyvinod tikoo have the right policies with regards to the British economy and are good for British businesses. The Conservatives have a fair immigration plan, have a strong leadership and for me personally, they have got their handle on issues specific to the British Indian community.”
Vinod Tikoo

Manu Khajuria_Family“I support the Conservatives because their efforts in initiating an economic turnaround have shown results and I would like to see that take roots and even do better. Their ethos of results through hard work appeals to me. Additionally I like their approach and attitude towards India and I hope to see good things come out of it in the future.” – Manu Khajuria Singh

Eastern Eye Election Debate with Shailesh Vara

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On Monday, the Dhamecha Lohana Community Centre in North London hosted the second round of the Eastern Eye election debates. Moderated by the eminent Nihal (or “Poundland Paxman”, as he referred to himself last week) from the BBC Asian Network, Lord Dholakia (Lib Dems), Barry Gardiner (Labour) and Shailesh Vara (Conservatives) discussed a range of topics including immigration, the health service, British-Indian relations, education, safety and caste legislation.

Some of the highlights from the debate:

Theme of the Week: Well-Being

If you could wish for one thing, what would it be? Peace in the hearts of all, and peace amongst all nations?
A healthy population, we believe, is at the heart of a healthy society. This week, Election Masala focuses in on well-being.

NEIL PATEL is the founder of Chi Kri, a Health, Fitness and Well-being company.  42 year old Neil has taught yoga and trained yoga teachers for a quarter of a century. He has worked for large corporations like HSBC, and has had the fortune to take his trade all around the world. He is the director of the United Nations International Yoga Day in London.

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“In 2000 I was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but refused all treatment only use yoga to combat the illness,” says the yoga expert.

He has released 3 books, a few audio CD & DVDs and has also invented Hip Hop Yoga.

Election Masala: What, according to you, is the British Indian community’s biggest contribution to the UK?

Neil: Yoga — the introduction of yoga teachers here has given the UK a new spiritual identity that is non-religious, but which at the same time can give white, black and Asian a united spiritual base, and without the need to convert or change religious status.

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What has been your proudest British Indian moment?

I gave a speech about yoga to an audience at the Indian High Commissioner’s office.

What is your definition of well being and how can it be ensured in today’s times?

Well-being is being able to sleep with a clear heart, wake with a peaceful mind, and eat slowly without the need to rush. Well-being is being focused on all activates with laser-like concentration, it is the ability to remain unperturbed by trials and to be confident when challenges approach you. It is the ability to be strong when life demands it, and sensitive, compassionate and patient when others are suffering before you. Well-being is not health, well-being is deeper than all physical matters, it is peace with one’s own self through illness, bereavement and financial loss. The way to achieve all these things is through meditation.

As a British Indian, what personal values do you associate with the Conservative party?

They represent aspirational thinking and success.

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If you could wish for one thing, what would it be?

Peace in the hearts of all, and amongst all nations in their interactions with each other.


SOWMYA BHARANI has a doctoral degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from King’s College London. Having worked as a drug tester with the Anti Doping Agency in the London Olympics and Paralympics 2012, she volunteered as a research dietitian for the diabetics departments at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals. She runs her own nutrition and diet consultancy service on Harley Street, London, and works closely with various schools all around London in order to improve the nutritional status of children and to help prevent childhood obesity.

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Says Sowmya, “I have also conducted a nutrition education programme for school children and parents who might be susceptible to eating disorders. Moreover, I have introduced cutting edge technology to improve the lives of my clients by promoting nutrigenomics or DNA based diets. We analyse a clients’ DNA and analyse what diseases they are susceptible to and based on that I counsel my clients to help prevent the disease.”

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Election Masala: What, according to you, is the British Indian community’s biggest contribution to the UK?

Sowmya: There are more than one million people of Indian origin here in the UK and it would be unfair to name one attribute. However in my opinion the brain power which the British Indian community contributes to UK is obvious for anyone to see — from the number of students who contribute significantly to the research being conducted in the UK, to the heads of various organisations who help to drive the economy of this country.

The Conservative party values aspiration, hard work, family and service above self. As a British Indian what personal values do you associate with the Conservative party?

I associate myself with aspiration, because that drives me to do well for my self, friends and family. Aspiration is what made me start my own business in the UK despite knowing very well that there would be some difficult times ahead.

When you think of the word ‘achiever’, who comes to mind and why?

Lakshmi Mittal is the name that comes to mind when I think of achievers in the UK. I am inspired by him not because of the amount of money that he has earned, but because of the sheer grit and determination with which he has built his own empire. Coming to the UK and settling down decades ago must have been very challenging. Moreover, achievements mean nothing if it does not help the betterment of society. Not only does his business provide opportunities for thousands of people, but his philanthropic work is also well known. His biggest achievement is that he is an inspiration to generations of Indians settling down in the UK and he shows that anything is possible if one works hard enough.
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What has been your proudest British Indian moment?

The unveiling of the Gandhi statue in London as this for me symbolised the strength of the British Indian community in the UK and the respect the Conservative party shows this community.

If you can wish for one thing, what would it be?

I would wish for more opportunities and support for British Indians, especially for those with entrepreneurial inclinations. A louder voice for women in business and politics would help drive the society and economy forward.

 

The Public and Political Lexicon: A Curiously Undemocratic Relationship

One sometimes wonders how much the general public takes away from political speeches, announcements or debates by politicians when political jargon is used.

Over the last year (since I lost out on a seat to represent the Isleworth ward on the Hounslow in May 2014), I have turned to campaigning and being involved in coordinating a campaign for this upcoming General Election where I am now an Officer of the Brentford and Isleworth Conservative Party Association and a Deputy Chairman for one of the constituency’s wards. In a bid to ensure that Mary Macleod (who has been a remarkable MP for the constituency over the last 5 years) is re-elected, I, along with many others, have knocked on thousands of doors to engage with the electorate on the doorstep.

What follows is not a patronising attack on the voting public. The public is not stupid. The public is, on the whole, engaging, pensive, cautious, reasonable and many other positive things. Having said that, this write-up provides a few examples of how the elusive nature of political jargon can render many of the ideas and concepts on which this General Election is fought to be arcane and unfathomable if not misleading. This development is not to be celebrated but is, in many ways, the antithesis of democracy and the single most hampering obstacle to public engagement.

How much or how little of the political lexicon is understood by the voting public is a pertinent issue as there is a clear danger that many policies receive very little democratic scrutiny by the public as a result of the elusive nature of nature.

For example, I am able to say, hand on heart, that the majority of people that I met (other than politicos attending conferences and hustings) on the doorstep during this campaign do not understand the difference between the national debt and the deficit or either mix the two up. Most think that the two are synonymous. Admittedly, up until a year ago, I had the same difficulty. Indeed, Gordon Brown’s speeches and Ed Balls’ speeches have mixed the two in the recent past. At no point during the Leaders’ Debates in 2010 (or even the most recent debates for the 2015 General Elections) were the public provided with a definitional distinction between the two by politicians. Indeed, to do so on TV would be political suicide – an almost arrogantly lecturing gesture. And so, such televised debates (and, indeed, untelevised hustings up and down the land) tend to take place with politicians making a plethora of presumptions in relation to the political jargon.

At a recent speech that I had the pleasure of delivering, I made a reference to “reducing the size of the state” and a gentleman looked at me and sheepishly asked, “What do you mean? Like getting rid off Cornwall?”.

“Free schools” is another example. The public cannot really appreciate and engage with this issue (which is why Education has not really been at the forefront of this election since the official campaign started) because many simply think that “Free schools” means schools you do not have to pay to attend (and that is not a big issue – free schools, according to that understanding, are the norm).

Here, the public fails to grasp the pros and cons of this potentially seismic change in the educational framework of this country. Free schools are palpably the product of an ideology which is right of centre – that the state should not interfere and be overly prescriptive in the development of children. As a Conservative (and an enthusiastic fan of Michael Gove’s reforming policies in the field of education and, whisper it quietly, the politician that I would like to see become leader of the Conservative Party purely because of the intellectual air of self-assurance which he provides to any debate) I personally endorse the introduction of Free Schools but I find it difficult to deny that those who would be opposed to this idea would be unable to voice out their concerns effectively if, applying a literal meaning to the phrase, they believe that Free Schools are these inconsequential things – schools that you do not pay to attend.

Those who would otherwise think that Free Schools are a cop-out on the part of the state – a vehicle for private interest (if not profit) and influence into our education system and a mechanism for further inequality would not be able to convey such concerns to any degree and that largely arises from the confusing jargon.

Likewise, those voters who would otherwise be in favour of Free Schools as something which is empowering and which enables schools to focus on the specific aptitudes of pupils as an alternative to the concept of a one-size fits all curriculum (perhaps one has a struggling child where the National Curriculum does not tap into his/her strengths), would not be able to voice out their approval in any effective manner for the same reasons.

To provide another example, the word “privatisation” in relation to the NHS (as used in the discourse of the parties left of centre and the focal basis on which the Labour Party has run its campaign to date) is often mistakenly believed to denote a form of “selling off” in the sense of selling off the NHS itself (as was done with the rail companies). To the contrary, in the case of the NHS, it simply denotes a form of outsourcing or contract tendering for the benefit of third party companies to carry out some of the healthcare services traditionally provided by the NHS at an exclusive level – it is not a sale of the NHS in the conventional sense to those private companies.

Those in favour of this idea of “privatization” which is a mere tendering process cannot voice out their approval or support if, applying the misleading meaning attributed to it in the discourse, they believe that “privatisation”, rather than meaning the involvement of companies in the private sector, means that our NHS is being sold off in the literal sense which would attract vast disapproval from the majority across the left and right of the political spectrum.

This brings me to the use of the terms “left” and “right”. These terms are often not understood as much as politicians or politicos like to think. The public is more perceptive to image, to engagement and to actual ideas and policies rather than the rigidly binary structure and notion of a Left and a Right. Such references, I have found, often produce a blank look on people’s faces.

I believe that we have entered an age of ideas (albeit underpinned by Left or Right wing values) and it is ideas that capture the attention of the voting public. Two recent examples prove to serve this point. The public overwhelmingly (in all polls, studies, and surveys) supports the idea of reforming or scrapping the seemingly privileged non-dom status. This is a left-wing policy. The policy supports it.

On the other hand, the same public overwhelmingly (again…in all polls, studies and surveys) support welfare reform and the reduction of the welfare budget (and, by extension, the welfare state). Such pursuits are ideologically right-wing but the same public which is in favour of scrapping non-dom status also supports welfare reform. It is, therefore, unhelpful to think of the public as being right-wing or left-wing. The public is perceptible to ideas and the cogency of such ideas.

It is for this reason that I believe that the Liberal Democrats’ recent poster asking voters to look Left, then Right and then Cross, whilst very clever in its own right, will be largely ineffective and will fall on deaf ears.

It may, as I suspect, strike a chord with the Liberal Democrats’ traditional and core vote (which is perhaps what the Lib-Dems will settle for – to keep the majority of its 50 plus seats) but I have reservations as to whether such a poster (or message) will be successful in attracting new votes or whether it will mean anything to the public.

This problem [of language] if I may refer to it as such is not going to wither away. In fact, the problem will be more acute in future elections in this age of sound-biting jargon fuelled intensively by social media where the quick snappy message reigns supreme.

The only way to fight off or to mitigate against the undesirable outcomes of this phenomenon is through direct contact on the doorstep – the traditional face-to-face conversation and, for me, this is why future elections will still be won through traditional and conventional methods of campaigning – pounding the streets, ringing bells and old fashioned canvassing and personal engagement.


Fadi Farhat, Officer, Brentford and Isleworth Conservative Party Association and Deputy Chairman for one of the constituency’s wards.

Theme of the week: Service

Community and service are values integral to any good society where the focus is not just on receiving benefits but also on giving something back. This week’s theme is “Service” and we speak to two inspirational ladies who have not only given back to  society but also encouraged others to do so — by way of passion and compassion.

10336676_10202802196363034_6261533147828072321_nARPITA RAY is a mother, home maker and a gynaecologist. She loves working within the community, and for the community.    “Last year we, Essex Indians, started charity fund raising for terminally ill kids suffering from cancer. We as a group raised £9500 for the charities. We successfully hosted 3 charity events, and through these we were able to bring the community together.”

The Conservative party values aspiration, hard work, family and service above self. As a British Indian, what personal values do you associate with the Conservative party?

My personal values are — work hard, be a good person and contribute to your community locally and globally. These are the values every individual should have irrespective of their political belief. We have created politics, politics didn’t create us.

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When you think of the word ‘achiever’, who comes to mind and why?

Rabindranath Tagore and Nelson Mandela, for their obvious contribution to mankind. Recently 17 year old Malala Yousafzai showed the world that if you are sufficiently determined, then you can  make your dream a reality and inspire people to do the same. My son is lucky to have a role model like her in his generation.

As a British Indian, what do you see as the community’s biggest contribution to the UK?

Supporting and maintaining the vital services in different sectors of the society. I must say, I never expected to see so many curry houses when I arrived in this country 15 years back. Introducing spices to English cuisine is probably the biggest contribution.

If you can wish for one thing, what would it be?

Encourage your kids to know their roots, their heritage and the spirit of giving back to society.

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USHA RAGHAVAN
, an Indian Classical Dancer and ‘Guru’ was born and brought up in Chennai, India. Having moved to London a few decades ago along with her husband, Usha established her own dance institute, ‘Kalasagara UK’, in the 1990s. She has trained hundreds of students, many of whom are now dance professionals.

 

What, according to you, is the British Indian community’s biggest contribution to the UK?

The British Indian community has been a major contributor to the successful creation of a multicultural society in the UK. The way we have integrated with the native British is simply exemplary and promotional of the virtues of peaceful coexistence of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

As a British Indian what personal values do you associate with the Conservative party?

When I came to London about two decades ago, there were very few professional practitioners of Indian classical dance in its pure form. With hope and determination I founded my dance institute Kalasagara UK to perform and to promote the art. With hardly a handful of students (of whom my daughter was one!), it was not easy for me to pursue my passion and profession in a new country. With sheer hard work and the support of my family I managed to firmly establish myself and my school. Today, if I am recognised and appreciated for my work, it is due to my unwavering faith in values like hard work, perseverance, service above self and the fact that being aspirational is seen as a virtue here, the same values that the Conservative Party cherishes.

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When you think of the word ‘achiever’, who comes to mind and why?

My mother who instilled strong values in me comes to my mind as an achiever. A woman of determination and self- confidence, she took to working full-time when women were expected to stay at home to raise children. She, by example, showed me that it was possible to succeed, rising above society’s prejudices, if you believed in yourself. My father was a great support to her. Together they raised their daughters to believe in their capabilities and potential and realise their dreams.

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If you can wish for one thing, what would it be?

I wish I can meet the Her Majesty The Queen of England one day and perform for her this very beautiful dance form.

Theme of the Week: Diligence

Over the course of the weeks leading up to the general election, Election Masala presents excerpts from interviews that we have recently conducted with members of the British Indian community. Every week is headed by a particular theme: this week’s theme is diligence.

SHAVATA is the founder of Shavata Brow Studio. She has built her own business and runs over twenty-five brow studios in the UK.

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Her career began as an employee at Michaeljohn in Mayfair, where she developed a following for her eyebrow shaping (something that was, at the time, a less appreciated aspect of beauty). Recalls Shavata: “I shaped the brows of an editor from Vogue and she loved the transformation and then wrote about me and her experience. I went on to open my own studios and we now have over twenty-five nationwide, including my flagship on Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge.”

What according to you is the biggest contribution of the British Indian community in the UK?

I appreciate all British Indians who are hardworking and ambitious and who have embraced the UK as their own home. The majority of us came to the UK with nothing and built new, prosperous lives from scratch. We did not come here for handouts, but to build a future and instill a strong work ethic in our children.

The Conservative party values aspiration, hard work, family and service above self.  As a British Indian, what personal values do you associate with the Conservative party?

I associate with all the values above. These principles got me to where I am today, with a successful business and a loving family.

What has been your proudest British Indian moment?

My proudest British Indian moment is seeing a change in perception of the British Indian community in England.
While growing up and watching soaps on television, I would see Indian actors being presented as shop keepers. Now when I watch TV I see them as lawyers and doctors, which is a big change.

When you think of the word ‘achiever’, who comes to mind and why?

My father comes to mind. He came to the UK with five children and only £5 in his pocket. He worked very hard and saved up to provide for his family. I would not able to do what he did and I admire him for that.


An epitome of hard work and perseverance, meet AMANDEEP SINGH BHOGAL, the first British Indian Conservative party candidate to be contesting from a rural seat in Northern Ireland.

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Born in the land of the five rivers – the Punjab, Amandeep comes from a Sikh family of farmers and carpenters. Growing up in India and England, Amandeep went to BETHS Grammar School in Bexley and has been a Conservative Party member ever since his school days. Going forward from BETHS Grammar he joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and carries with him a strong British Diplomatic ethos of standing up for Britain’s National Interest. He is working hard for a greater bi-lateral ‘New-Old’ Special relationship between the United Kingdom and the Union of India, one founded on more than just trade alone, one built on unrivalled joint defence, governmental and cultural co-operation.

Married to Pari, they have two children, Sukhmani and Arjun. As a father, a farmer and an experienced engineer and industrialist he stands up vehemently for strong families, the free market and empowering the individual to create wealth.   Amandeep is a super-charged Conservative voice for ‘minimum government – maximum governance’, ‘red carpet not red tape’ and a new bold, centre-right and free modern ‘One World’.

He was the first ever Sikh candidate of any party to stand for the London Assembly in 2012. He is the first Sikh Parliamentary candidate in Northern Ireland history and the youngest ever ethnic minority candidate to stand for Parliament in Northern Ireland. In a recent interview in the Conservative Voice, Aman explained that the Conservatives want to “end sectarian politics” in Northern Ireland and introduce “some real normal politics”, with arguments about the economy, and voters presented with the choice between David Cameron and Ed Miliband. He believes that sectarian differences, from which politicians make their careers, mean less and less to young people. He is in favour of “extremely low taxes”, and believes the state sector – still 72 per cent of Northern Ireland’s economy – needs to be reduced.

What according to you is the biggest contribution of the British Indian community in the UK?

The health of the nation! With thousands of Indian doctors stepping forward to serve the United Kingdom over the past five decades to build up a great NHS ensuring wealth creation by health preservation.

As a British Indian what personal values do you associate with the Conservative party?

In addition to valuing family, aspiration and hard work, the most important principles the Conservative Party stands for is free enterprise, free market and free people. We back the free individual to engage in free enterprise on the free market to secure the nation’s future by creating wealth and prosperity for all. I am incredibly proud of our British Indian community which is the finest example of that vision in action over the last 60 years.

What has been your proudest British Indian moment?

It has got to be the Prime Minister David Cameron visiting Sri Durbar Sahib in Amritsar – a first by a British Prime Minister and his recognition of the sometimes difficult shared history and condemnation of Jallianwalla Bagh.

When you think of the word ‘achiever’, who comes to mind and why?

William Wilberforce – who relentlessly campaigned to abolish the slave trade during the late 18th and early 19th centuries finally achieving an end to British ships carrying slaves with the Slave Trade Act in 1807.

If you can wish for one thing, what would it be?

An end to sectarian politics in Northern Ireland. For far too long politics of fear, mistrust and head counts has ruled the people of Northern Ireland pitting neighbour against neighbour. It is about time that Northern Ireland had a real alternative of normal meaningful politics of economic development, social harmony and functional government. It should all be about job counts not head counts and never about where one comes from – only where one is going.

Meet Hannah David: Securing the Future for Harrow West

Meet HANNAH DAVID: “Like many people in Harrow West, I have a family and run a small business. I know how hard it is for parents to juggle work and family – because I face that same challenge every day.”

Hannah enjoys enormous support from Harrow locals, and there’s no wondering why — this is a politician who really listens to what people have to say. Many of her fans would probably argue that she knew them before they knew her, and many will know her as the friendly young woman who came out to greet them on a local street. Proactive, positive and persistent, Hannah isn’t the type to cower behind an office desk.

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“As a politician,” she says, “you are judged above all else on your achievements.”

So what will Hannah try to achieve, given her election in May? Three things stand out as particularly important.

  • She will work with businesses to create jobs – she wants to help local people support themselves and their families
  • She will try to deliver a tidier, safer community – Harrow streets and parks can be cleaner as well as more secure for you and your family, and Hannah knows that
  • She will fight for local campaigns like the Council Tax Freeze – Hannah wants to assure that hard-working families are able to feel financially secure

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“In my constituency – Harrow West,” Hannah says, “I have made my campaign about outlining a clear set of objectives to be achieved over the course of the next five years. This is an approach that has resonated with the local Indian Diaspora – a community of entrepreneurs and business people who understand the value of hard work and achievement. I know that I have secured the support of many within this community because like me, and the Conservative Party, they understand the importance of achievement.”

Come May 7th, residents of Harrow West will know what to do. Go to the polling booths, and show that you support Hannah as much as she supports you.

Theme of the Week: ACHIEVEMENT

Achievement is the measure of diligence, perseverance, focus and the desire to excel. British Indians rank among the highest achievers globally and across industry. As someone once said,
“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.” 

Over the course of the weeks leading up to the general election, Election Masala will be posting excerpts from interviews that we have recently conducted with members of the British Indian community. Every week is headed by a particular theme: this week’s theme is achievement. 

Karishma's black and white photoKARISHMA VORA PAREKH is a dual qualified barrister in India and England – no mean feat, that! Having practiced litigation in India for about 6 years, she moved to London in 2009. Breaking into the commercial Bar in England was one of the most trying tasks she recalls having undertaken. Her alma mater is the London School of Economics, and she has taught commercial law at the LSE summer school. Presently, she is the only Indian elected to the Gray’s Inn Barristers Committee for a three year term.

Here is a brief Q ‘n’ A with Karishma:

What according to you is the biggest contribution of the British Indian community in the UK?

That we keep things together; whether it is as a family, or contributing at the workplace.

After the Call to the Bar ceremony, outside The Hall, Gray's InnWhen you think of the word ‘achiever’, who comes to mind and why?

My parents. My father set up an industry manufacturing engineering files and won a collaboration with the oldest file factory in the world, in Germany, breaking the Indian cartel prevalent at the time.

My mother is India’s leading audiologist and is immensely trusted by her patients who include cabinet ministers and top industrialists. Both have excelled without losing the curiosity to learn more.

As a British Indian, what personal values do you associate with the Conservative party?

The theory of ‘Karma’. Valuing hard work and rewarding those in work rather than those out of work echoes the karmic philosophy, which resonates with Indian values.

What has been your proudest British Indian moment?

I have two: the appointment of Sir Rabinder Singh QC as the first Sikh judge of the High Court of England and Wales, and singing the Indian national anthem at Middle Temple Hall to commemorate Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s 100 years of call to the bar.

If you can wish for one thing, what would it be?

A balance. A balance between work and family life, between Indian and western values, between knowing and learning and between satisfaction and curiosity.

Lord Popat: Small Businesses Are The Future

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Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) and Member, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Committee 

There are very few issues that are more important to the British Indian diaspora than business and the economy. From those who came to work in manufacturing in the 1960s to those of us who arrived in the 1970s and ran a corner shop, the desire for businesses to succeed has become ingrained in our community.

You don’t have to look far for the evidence. From a cursory glance at Britain’s Rich List through to a scan of our FTSE 100 Boardrooms, British Indians play a leading role in our largest economic institutions. And that’s before we mention the dozens of family businesses that, through decades of hard woPopfeatrk and sacrifice, have grown into well-known brands.

One of the most enjoyable parts of being a business minister is visiting businesses across the UK. I visit dozens of businesses every month and I am always amazed by the determination and passion shown by the entrepreneurs I meet. Many of them are British Indian, and all of them have a plan and a vision for making their company the best in the market. It really is incredibly inspiring.

And it is the same wherever you go. On a visit to Zambia last year to represent the Government I met a number of business leaders in Lusaka. I was astonished by the number of British Indians who were selling British goods and services there; boosting our exports and our reputation in my home continent.

I’m very proud of the economic achievements of the British Indian community. Like the Conservative Party, British Indians value entrepreneurship and hard work and think those who help to build a stronger and more balanced economy should be rewarded.

That’s why I was so pleased last Wednesday to pass through the Government’s Small Business Bill through the House of Lords, along with my colleague Baroness Neville-Rolfe. It’s a piece of legislation that will give the hard working entrepreneurs that I’ve met across the UK.

Amongst other things the Bill makes it easier for SMEs to access finance and to win Government Procurement contracts, whilst clamping down on late payments from bigger firms. The Bill also ensures employees are protected, by clamping down on Zero-Hours Contracts and increasing the fines on those businesses that aren’t paying the National Minimum Wage.Popdfeat2

This is the first ever Parliamentary Bill dedicated to the needs of Small Businesses. For too long Britain’s politicians paid lip service to SMEs whilst neglecting their needs. This Bill is a clear demonstration that the Conservative Party is changing that. We’re putting SMEs at the heart of our economic strategy, because it is those SMEs who create jobs and spread prosperity.

You only have to look at our record to see how strong our commitment to SMEs is. A British Business Bank established. The Funding for Lending Scheme approved. £2,000 taken off National Insurance. Red Tape scaled back. Corporation Tax cut to 20%. The education system reformed so that we can get a skilled workforce for the future. The annual investment allowance doubled so that firms can invest. 2.1 million Apprenticeships created.

These are just a few of the policies we’ve put into place to support British businesses. I’m very proud that I’ve been able to support and introduce these measures and many others, and that they’ve benefited so many families and businesses.

Both the British Indian community and the Conservative Party place a great emphasis on businesses succeeding. But it is worth remembering that no other party offers such a strong commitment –and track record- as the Conservatives.

If we end up with a Labour Government and Prime Minister after May, we’ll be entering the dangerous territory of state interference, nationalisation, Union-led policy, more Government borrowing and more regulation. We’ll be going back in time to the failures of the 1970s.

If small businesses are important to you; if you believe in a free and fair economy where people can succeed and take care of their family, then remember that there is only one Party committed to your beliefs: the Conservative Party.