Indian-origin politicians are occupying top offices across the world more than ever before. A simple Google search will reveal around 250 Indian-origin people who have participated in mainstream politics of different countries and held crucial positions in governments. But now, other than the Girmitya countries, where the Indian diaspora has existed since before the days of Indian Independence, a large number of Indians immigrating to the West for better career opportunities has led to a rise in Indian-origin politicians in some of world’s most developed nations. The Sunday Guardian curates a list of most important current Indian-origin politicians making a mark in the world.
Jagmeet Singh, Canada
Jagmeet Singh Jimmy Dhaliwal, popularly known as Jagmeet Singh, has been elected as the president of the National Democratic Party (NDP). Singh will be running for the presidential polls in 2019, making NDP the first political group of Canada to be led by a “visible” minority member. Born to immigrant parents from Punjab, Singh is a criminal lawyer and Member of Provincial Parliament, but has no experience in federal politics. He is expected to be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s strongest contender, even though Singh’s party NDP had faced a humiliating defeat in the last presidential polls. Singh’s youth-oriented policies and representation of Canada’s strongest minority group, Sikhs, are expected to help him pave way for his party into the mainstay.
Leo Varadkar, -Ireland
Ireland’s first openly gay Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, was born to a Catholic mother and a Hindu father who moved to Ireland from Mumbai in the 1960s to practice medicine. Varadkar, a doctor himself, was elected as Ireland’s first gay PM in June this year. He had “come out” in a radio interview in January 2015 and is known to be in a relationship with Dr Matthew Barrett. Varadkar, 38, is Ireland’s youngest Taoiseach (Prime Minister), the first person from a minority ethnic background to occupy office and also the first minister of Indian heritage. He is also Ireland’s first and the world’s fourth openly gay head of government in modern times.
Kamala Devi -Harris, US
Seen as a potential Presidential candidate in 2020, Kamala Devi Harris, lawyer and a politician in the United States, was born to immigrant parents and is of half Indian and half Jamaican descent. Kamala Harris currently serves as a junior senator from California and has served as the former 32nd Attorney General of California. She is the daughter of a Tamil Indian mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, and a Jamaican father, Donald Harris. Kamala’s mother was a prominent breast cancer researcher, who emigrated from Chennai in 1960. Her father was a Stanford University economics professor, who emigrated from Jamaica in 1961. Kamala is the grand-daughter of Rajam Gopalan, a known Indian diplomat.
Nikki Haley, US
Nimrata Nikki Haley was the first female Governor of South Carolina and the second Indian American, after fellow Republican Bobby Jindal, to serve as a Governor in the United States. Currently serving as the 29th United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Haley served as the 116th Governor of South Carolina from January 2011 to January 2017. In 2016, Haley was named among “The 100 Most Influential People” by Time magazine. Haley was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, in an Indian-American Sikh family. Her parents, Ajit Singh Randhawa and mother Raj Kaur Randhawa, hailed from Amritsar and moved to Canada after her father secured a scholarship in the University of British Columbia. Later, the family immigrated to the US and settled in South Carolina.
Ashok Sridharan, Germany
The current mayor of Bonn, Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, has his roots in Kerala. Sridharan, who was appointed as the country’s first Indian origin mayor in 2015, had managed to bring the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to power in Bonn after over two decades by defeating the ruling Social Democratic Party. Sridharan’s father was an Indian diplomat, who immigrated to Germany in the 1950s and married his German mother. The 50-year-old had earlier served as treasurer and assistant mayor of Koenigswinter.
Other than these leading faces, the US and Canada have more than one Indian-origin politicians in key positions. United Kingdom is another example where Indians are making a mark in mainstream politics. In its recently concluded elections, Labour candidate Preet Kaur Gill became Britain’s first female Sikh MP and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, better known as Tan, became the first turban-wearing MP. The results of the general election in United Kingdom also showed an increase in the number of Indian-origin MPs in the House of Commons.
New Zealand’s parliamentary elections that concluded last month elected three politicians of Indian heritage, namely Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Dr Paramjeet Parmar and Priyanca Radhakrishnan. While Bakshi and Parmar will commence their fourth and second terms respectively as parliamentarians, Radhakrishnan made her parliamentary debut for the Labor Party.