On Whether Rishi Sunak As UK Prime Minister Is A “Win”

Right, so now that we’ve had approx. 48 hours to ‘get used to the idea’ … there’s been a bit of commentary around the place on the ‘meaning’, if you like, of Rishi Sunak moving into No. 10 Downing Street.

Specifically, whether it’s something that ought be ‘welcomed’ or effectively ‘ignored’ by Hindus – and our European pre-Christian religion cousins – and upon what basis.

Now, the way I see it, there’s two ways you can approach this.

Many people have gone (rightly or wrongly) for ‘Option A’.

That is – looking at Sunak in much the same manner we would look at pretty much any other politician. What is he about, what is his record, what is his platform, what is his background, what are the prospects of him rolling out some sort of Immediate Dharmaraj Tomorrow, sort of thing.

That is understandable.

And by that rubric, people are often rather disappointed.

We hear “There is a Hindu / Pagan PM of the UK!” And we presume that this means that the UK has gotten ‘a little bit more Hindu’ in fairly direct consequence. Or, rather, that if it isn’t going to very swiftly start getting a bit more Hindu, that somebody is a charlatan that has coasted in on an ‘identitarian wave’ in terms of our support.

Or, we hear “There is a former Hedge Fund Manager PM of the UK, who happens to be Hindu!” And we wonder why on earth we would be celebrating another figure of the former group, simply because a ‘Saffron Veneer’ is affixed, making him at least notionally one of the latter.

I have an alternative view.

(Don’t I always)

A few weeks ago (it was in late July), during Sunak’s previous tilt at the Tory Leadership, I happened to see a tweet with an image attached. It was from a prominent ‘blue checkmark’ account on twitter, who has (at current time of writing) somewhere around three hundred and twenty four thousand followers on there. This man is, apparently, a “journalist”.

What was in the tweet? Well, the captioning by the guy read “Why Muslims in Britain and India fear potential UK PM Rishi Sunak”.

The actual ‘substance’ of the tweet, however, was an eye-catching image of Sunak – with pointedly large Tilaka photoshopped (or, more likely, MS Paint’d) onto his brow, striding forth in confident assertion … flanked by, on the one hand Narendra Modi – and on the other, Hitler with a certain flag behind him. Helpfully labelled “Nazi”, just so one didn’t somehow think it was the ice-cream salesman instead.

The messaging was quite clear. Sunak was a Hindu, Hindus and Hinduism in Politics are SCARY. Supporting Sunak for a leadership role in the UK’s domestic politics was … oh gosh, you get the idea.

(The screencap of the tweet posted above didn’t make it into the facebook rendition of this piece … because I suspect facebook’s algorithms would auto-snap me for an image that could be interpreted as violating terms of service – not because it’s anti-Hindu, but because they seem to auto-flag images featuring that particular German leader of yesteryear … an associate got a 30 day ban awhile back for a meme in that regard; instead I went with another anti-Sunak tweet from about the same time, the one that’s heading this piece up-top – and you’ll notice how it’s not “religious nonsense” , but pointedly “baffling Hindu” alleged “nonsense” that the poster had taken issue with)

At the time, I said the following:

“[…] Like, is that where we’re at? Have Tilaka upon brow, that means you’re a foreign political movement and/or The Enemy .. ?

I am not a supporter of the UK Conservative Party. I am not a fan of Sunak’s opponent for a few reasons, but haven’t heard much to recommend Sunak in a political sense either (although I haven’t looked too heavily into it so who knows).

But stuff like this …

well, this transcends party politics, precisely because it’s not really about Sunak. It’s about Hindus in politics – or, for that matter, Hinduism in the public sphere.

And how even a vague hint that one might be actually Hindu can be, apparently, ‘weaponized’ like this.

Like, this is stupid. I don’t want to be supporting any contender for leadership of the Tories. Not my party – not even my country.

But if people decide they are going to attack him by attacking his religion – our – religion ..

well, then, we know what it is that we shall defend.

Because yes, the Principle of the thing absolutely does matter.”

So, to make this very simple then:

My view on Sunak as British PM is that it has a ‘symbolic purport’.

And – not least in terms of politics – symbols, ‘symbolic victories’, they do in fact matter. The claim that they don’t, is one often made by people attempting to downplay and to undercut something that has been won – by insisting that because it is not the substantive thing (yet), that it is worthless.

And yet – it is precisely the symbolic sorts of victories (or defeats) that then lead on fairly directly (if not necessarily always immediately) to the substantive ones. Hence why one must discourage one’s opponent from seeing the ‘symbolic wins’ as ‘wins’ at all – so they do not attempt to ‘follow up’ thereupon in earnest.

During Sunak’s previous run, various people were up in arms and opposing him … effectively, because he was Hindu (or they felt he was Hindu – Hindu enough to be labelled a Hindu extremist, which appears to mean ‘Hindu at all’ or ‘Hindu near power’ to some of these sorts).

These people have LOST today.

They are, assumedly, rather annoyed by it.

Now I am NOT saying that everything – especially in politics – is some kind of a ‘zero sum game’, wherein if one’s opponent loses something, then one has automagically ‘won’ something as a result.

Not least because there are any number of potential scenarios wherein everybody can lose (to varying degrees, perhaps) – and it is very easy to end up scrabbling over losing just a little bit less than your opposition instead of actually and actively trying to ‘win’.

So, again, I am not saying that we – Hindus, and our cousin Indo-European religious adherents – have ‘won’ something simply because these sorts aforementioned have lost something.

But I do think that their having not won is a good start.

So, will I be declaring myself an enthusiastic supporter of a politician who happens to be named ‘Rishi Sunak’, and who has had a few images of himself at Temples etc. being shared around on social media (both by his enthusiastic supporters as well as his self-declared opponents … albeit for peculiarly identical-yet-dissimilar reasons) ?

I do not know that I will. It should prove rather unlikely.

I spent long enough involved in politics here in New Zealand (which has also recently started to have anti-Hindu narratives be pushed by certain sorts out there on the fringes – we hope that they shall not find broader purchase) to find myself fundamentally disinclined to take any such figure too seriously as a vector for genuine values (even notwithstanding my general non-support for the UK Conservative Party, etc.).

But am always happy to be (pleasantly) surprised if it does somehow transpire that somebody’s horse-traded their way to the top without selling their soul entirely in the process. There are a few out there still like that – I’ve met some of them, too.

Effectively, what I am saying is – I do not think it entirely necessary (or even, perhaps, advisable) to be a supporter of Sunak the man or Sunak the politician, in order to be supportive of the concept of Sunak managing to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Because – like it or not – this isn’t (just) about one man assuming one office in a faraway land.

It was also about whether some people and some forces out there (which are most definitely not exclusively confined to the UK – as I say, we’ve seen similar stuff attempting to pop up here in NZ of late) would prove able to say “He’s a Hindu!” and have him automagically felt to be ineligible for office purely on that account.

They lost.

I think there is something decidedly worthwhile in (having) that, for a start.

One thought on “On Whether Rishi Sunak As UK Prime Minister Is A “Win”

  1. The irony of such obviously racist people labelling someone a fascist just because they happen to be Hindu reflect the sad state in which those folk live. If they have to attack the man because they don’t like his political leaning why bring his faith/heritage into it? Who are the real fascists here?

    Liked by 1 person

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