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Indians pinning their hopes on Rishi Sunak for British PM on Diwali

NEW DELHI – Many Indians are delighted at the prospect of Rishi Sunak becoming the first person of Indian origin to become British prime minister on Monday, just as Hindus across the world celebrate Diwali or Deepavali.

Mr Boris Johnson pulled out of the prime ministerial race late on Sunday.

That move boosted Mr Sunak’s chances of taking the top job and replacing his Conservative Party leadership rival Liz Truss, who quit after 1½ months as her support evaporated.

Mr Sunak’s increasingly likely rise to the premiership has already made it to the front pages of most Indian newspapers, alongside the Indian cricket team’s win over arch-rival Pakistan in a T20 World Cup match late on Sunday.

Some Indians said on social media that Mr Sunak becoming prime minister this year would be even more special, as India recently celebrated 75 years of its independence from British colonial rule.

“This (Diwali) is very special for India’s magnificent cricket victory and in all likelihood, Rishi Sunak, a person of Indian origin, a practising Hindu and our own Narayana Murthy’s son-in-law, becoming prime minister of UK,” Chennai resident D. Muthukrishnan wrote on Twitter, referring to the founder of Indian software giant Infosys.

“Rishi Sunak took oath as an MP on (Hindu holy book) Bhagavad Gita. If he repeats the same for taking oath as prime minister, what a day it is for India, that too on our 75th year of independence from Britain.”

The 42-year-old former British finance minister is a practising Hindu and is known to celebrate the festival of lights. He has also been photographed lighting candles outside No. 11 Downing Street to mark the occasion.

Indians typically take immense pride when those who trace their roots to the nation of 1.4 billion people do well abroad.

These include figures such as United States Vice-President Kamala Harris, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

Some Indians are hoping for closer British-Indian ties if Mr Sunak does become prime minister.

“@RishiSunak becoming the British PM will be a great Diwali gift for UK, and a reason for celebration in India,” former Indian diplomat Rajiv Dogra wrote on Twitter.

Mr Sunak’s family migrated in the 1960s to Britain, which ruled India for about 200 years before the South Asian country gained independence in 1947.

Revelations that Mr Sunak’s wife Akshata Murthy, an Indian citizen, had not been paying British tax on her foreign income through her “non-domiciled” status – available to foreign nationals who do not see Britain as their permanent home – hurt Mr Sunak ahead of his race against Ms Truss in the summer.

Ms Murthy, who owns a 0.9 per cent stake in Infosys, later said she would start to pay British tax on her global income. - REUTERS

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