Indian nationalist party to campaign in UK against Labour

Indian nationalist party to campaign in UK against Labour
By: Technology Posted On: November 05, 2019 View: 8

Indian nationalist party to campaign in UK against Labour

Supporters of India's governing nationalist party the BJP will be actively campaigning for Conservative Party candidates against the Labour Party during the general election.

The group, known as the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) will be targeting 48 marginal seats during the campaign, and believe the British Indian vote in these constituencies could swing the election.

Kuldeep Singh Shekhawat, the president of the group, told The Times of India that they were campaigning against the Labour Party for its perceived criticism of India regarding the Kashmir conflict.

Pro-India supporters protest outside of the Indian High Commision in central London on August 15, 2019. - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist government imposed direct rule on the Indian held portion of Kashmir on August 5, setting off a new crisis in one of the world's most volatile security flashpoints. Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since independence from the British in 1947. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via
Image: British Indians protesting in London regarding Kashmir

It is unclear whether OFBJP receives funding from the main Hindu nationalist party back in India, and the group did not immediately respond to Sky News' enquiries.

Under UK law if the group planned to spend more than £20,000 in England it would be required to register with the Electoral Commission, but if their spending fell below that threshold they would not be required to register.

It could also only accept donations of more than £500 from permissible sources, such as individuals who appear on the electoral register, but donations below that threshold could come from abroad.

A spokesperson for the commission told Sky News: "Volunteers campaigning for or against a party, where no spending takes place, are not regulated.

More from General Election 2019

"That does not change if those volunteers are supporters of a political party in another country.

"Similarly, a political party or individual in another country may express support for a British political party, but could not provide funding for campaign activity unless the funds were raised from permissible donors - eg individuals on an electoral register within the UK or the other sources listed in our guidance."

Pro-India demonstrators hold placards as they protest outside of the Indian High Commision in central London on August 15, 2019. - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist government imposed direct rule on the Indian held portion of Kashmir on August 5, setting off a new crisis in one of the world's most volatile security flashpoints. Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since independence from the British in 1947. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should
Image: British Indians could swing the election, the OFBJP has claimed

The Labour Party has been criticised by Hindu nationalist groups after it passed an emergency motion which was perceived as criticising India's conduct over the contested territory of Kashmir.

"Kashmir is an internal matter of India. Why is the Labour Party discussing the Indian state? We will only support MPs who support us," Mr Shekhawat said.

"If the entire Indian community in the UK votes Tory, we will see a swing of around 40 seats to the Tories. This will swing the actual election result."

One of the politicians which OFBJP is particularly aiming to unseat is Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the Labour MP for Slough.

Mr Shekhawat said: "Not a single Hindu will vote for Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi this time. Hindu voters think he is working closely with the Pakistani community.

"He is always seen with Pakistanis and goes to the Pakistan high commission. He is vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Britain-Pakistan Trade and Tourism, and was vice-chair of the APPG Kashmir Group.

"Why is that? The Indian community in Slough are annoyed and have decided to vote for the Tory candidate."

Mr Dhesi responded to Sky News, saying: "There has been a lot of talk in recent years about foreign external interference in elections and surely this is just another prime example of it.

"However, Slough constituents and the good people of Great Britain can rest assured that despite such activities of religious hardliners trying to divide our cohesive community, I will continue to speak up stridently for the hard-fought values of human rights for all."

Anti-India supporters hold placards as they protest outside of the Indian High Commision in central London on August 15, 2019. - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist government imposed direct rule on the Indian held portion of Kashmir on August 5, setting off a new crisis in one of the world's most volatile security flashpoints. Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since independence from the British in 1947. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should re
Image: British Pakistanis attend a counter-protest outside of the Indian Commission

The OFBJP is now organising in Hindu temples, social groups and community bodies to call on British Indians not to vote for the Labour Party, The Times of India reported.

Speaking to Sky News, Eviane Leidig of the University of Oslo, said the Conservative Party had seen an increase in the number of British Indian, particularly Hindu, voters in the 2015 and 2017 elections.

"The upcoming election will likely be no different," said Ms Leidig, who studies political extremism - with a particular focus on the Indian and Western far right.

"British Hindus have long played an active role in grassroots mobilisation and political party campaigning in the UK," she told Sky News. "Part of this is due to a growing anti-Labour stance."

Ms Leidig's research has found parts of the British Hindu community regards the Labour Party as having control over what they perceive as the "Muslim (i.e. British Pakistani and Bangladeshi) voting bloc".

"These British Hindus frequently describe Labour as being 'Hinduphobic' and appeasing to Muslims," Ms Leidig said.

Sky News contacted both the Labour and Conservative parties to request their statements regarding the OFBJP's statement of support. We did not immediately receive a response from either.

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