Political thriller in London with Sunak and Javid leading the pack to be next prime minister

Mayank Chhaya –

Mayank Chayya

Unfolding in London is a political thriller one could not have made up. Two Conservative politicians, one a 42-year-old former Chancellor of the Exchequer of Indian descent, and the other a 52-year-old Secretary of State for Health and Social Care of Pakistani descent are being projected as prospective prime minister of Britain.

Rishi Sunak(Above Right), 42, and Sajid Javid(Above Left), 52, are said to be leading the pack among those who could replace the outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who resigned today in the aftermath of a spate of rebellious resignations from his cabinet. That Sunak was the first to resign has given him some political street cred. Following him close on the heels was Javid, 52, as part of what turned out to be a concerted action to force Johnson to resign amid many scandals.

That the next prime minister of Britain could be from its most cherished colonial possession of a once undivided India is causing a great deal of both anticipation and amusement. In a 48-hour drama that began on Tuesday, the twin Sunak-Javid resignations aimed at Johnson’s scandal-tainted incompetence opened the floodgates of other government ministers and officials resigning.

While Johnson will stay on as prime minister until such time as his Conservative Party chooses a new leader, in an announcement outside Downing Street today he said, “It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader. The process of choosing that new leader should begin now.”

“I want to tell you how sorry I am to be giving up the best job in the world,” he said.

According to a survey by JL Partners, a leading British polling company, Sunak is in the lead while Javid is in the second place for the top job. It is almost as if someone is writing the script for this political thriller in real time. Sunak’s popularity had taken a serious beating in April this year after it was revealed that his multi-millionaire wife Akshata claims non-domicile status in order to save millions of pounds in tax on dividends collected from her family’s IT business empire.

Akshata Murty happens to be the daughter of Narayana Murthy, the billionaire founder of the Indian tech giant Infosys.  She owns a 0.93% stake in Infosys valued at about £690 million pounds or over $820 million. That stake accrued her £11.6 million or $13.2 million in dividend payments in the last tax year.

Her claiming a non-domicile tax status, although legal, has turned out to be politically fraught for Sunak. Reports in the British media say, however, that his high-profile rebellion against Johnson has helped him reclaim some of the lost political ground.

If either Sunak or Javid does indeed become the next leader of the parliamentary Conservative Party and hence prime minister, it would be an unprecedented case of the rise of the once colonized as it were.

In his resignation letter Sunak had only obliquely referred to the much-written issue of Johnson’s incompetence and often bumbling ways. “The public rightly expect the government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.” Perhaps the implication was that the Johnson government was falling short on those counts.

Johnson came to power three years ago after a landslide victory which helped him pull Britain out of the European Union (EU). Three years hence, the wisdom of quitting the EU in 2020 remains a subject of serious debate with many saying it was disastrous for Britain.

Throughout his tenure, Johnson remained true to his self as someone who thumbed his nose at convention, and someone given to cavalier exaggerations. He was widely seen as a political figure in the mold of former U.S. President Donald Trump with whom he enjoyed a warm friendship. In the end, his belief that he was above rules and convention did him in.