The Tories had it coming, and after five Prime Ministers in 14 years, and a shaky report card at the end of the same, the Labour Party stormed the British Parliament. Unsurprising though the result may be, there is a fleeting sense of ‘unhappiness’ in India with the defeat of someone who was purportedly one of our ‘own’.

Even though Rishi Sunak repeatedly claimed to be a proud Briton, many just read his reiterated culture, ancestry, and above all religion, to fit in our ‘own’ claims – a nativist appeal to romanticise Indianness.

It is not something wrong or unique to Indians, as sense of roots or identity are claimed across the world. The Brazilians were cheering Portugal in Euro 2024 with the likes of Pepe and Matheus Nunes in the team, Hollywood actor Omar Sharif was lapped up by Egyptians or just as Kenyans erupted with joy when Barack Obama became the President of the United States.

It may be vicarious pride, but pride is always the driver, especially in emerging countries. Such success stories across borders feed a sense of redemption, revisionism and even a hurtful denialism from the past .

It also blurs a more reflective introspection as to why those who succeeded, had to do so across borders and not in their own nativist realms. Perhaps there is something to think about personal identities when we conflate the same with appropriated success abroad.

In the case of Rishi Sunak, it emerged in the wonderfully crafted connection speech he made, after conceding defeat to White Anglo-Saxon, Sir Keir Starmer. Amongst the gracious words to his opponent, partisan colleagues, and citizens in general, he posited, “One of the most remarkable things about Britain is just how unremarkable it is, that two generations after my grandparents came here with little, I could become Prime Minister, and that I could watch my two young daughters light Diwali candles on the steps in Downing Street. We must hold true to that idea of who we are, that vision of kindness, decency, and tolerance that has always been the British way.”

British society is far from perfect in terms of racism and ‘othering’, least of all, the right-wing Conservative party of Rishi Sunak. However, the fact that a Rishi Sunak could make it to 10 Downing Street, whilst belonging to Winston Churchill’s party, says something about the normalised ‘system’ there.

In 2015, Sunak flashed his ethnic identity without worrying about its political ramifications, “British Indian is what I tick on the census, we have a category for it. I am thoroughly British, this is my home and my country, but my religious and cultural heritage is Indian, my wife is Indian”.

Seemingly, in the larger and institutionalised British realm of politics, his minority status did not make him any lesser of a Briton, than any other.

It is no secret that within the Conservative ranks itself, there were believed to be nativist sentiments that didn’t take too kindly to an Indian-ethnicity Prime Minister. A member of yet another right-wing party, Reform UK Party, had used the despicably derogatory term ‘Paki’ in front of Rishi’s daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.

But all said and done, the Britons in 2023-24 did allow him that space, opportunity, and dignity of parity at the highest office. That the Conservatives had won the 2019 General Elections under the leadership of Boris Johnson, and that Rishi Sunak had subsequently been chosen by the Conservative majority to replace Boris Johnson does not change the reality or essence of British politics, drastically.

If anything there is a significant increase in diversity and representation within the UK Parliament with the latest elections, with a record 29 Indian-origin members, including Rishi Sunak. Interestingly, it was the Labour Party which led the charge with 19 members, indicating a bipartisan acceptance and celebration of diversity, especially amongst the all-powerful lobby of lawmakers.

To reiterate, beyond symbolism e.g., Diwali parties, temple visits et al, there was nothing extraordinary in terms of Rishi Sunak’s approach or delivery vis-à-vis Boris Johnson or David Cameron.

It can be further argued that diversity with the partisan ranks or ministerial positions also did not translate into commensurate outcomes for ethnic minorities, beyond a point. But what was achieved was a fundamental modernization of political parties and politics in general, and the normalisation of ‘minorities’ as true equal Britons.

That itself is praiseworthy of the institutionalised instincts in British politics, which then has an extrapolative impact in society, subsequently.

India could possibly have yet another moment with its diaspora “across the pond” in the United States, should President Joe Biden heed to a better sense of age-related realities and allow a Kamala Harris to go against Donald Trump.

Beyond decoding the merits of a Kamala versus Trump in a hypothetical contest, what is laudable is the expanded interpretation of the term “American Dream” that applies equally to all without substantial consideration towards minority ethnicity. Barack Obama had broken that glass ceiling to establish a “new-normal”.

But beyond getting excited about the Prime Ministerial or Presidential candidates of Indian ethnicity hence becoming “our own”, we must question our own politics, our own secularity, our own dominant narrative and our own outlook towards our minority denominations.

Are we equally progressive and accepting of our minorities? Do we cast aspersions on them or do we think that they too are first-rate patriots?

There seems to be a disturbing dichotomy with not just our reality but also of a large number of Non-Resident Indians and people of Indian ethnicity who reside outside and partake in many successes that are offered to them – but sometimes remain oblivious of the fate of minorities back home.

Conflating religion with the Idea of a nation is the most dangerous portent. Individuals make a nation, and they could be either patriotic or harbouring inimical thoughts, irrespective of their faith.

It is a lesson that we need to imbibe by just peering across the Line-of-Control and not willy-nilly become anything close to that sort of puritanism.

Lt. Gen. Bhopinder Singh is the former Lieutenant Governor of The Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Pondicherry and an Indian Army officer who was awarded the PVSM. Views are the writer’s own.