It is 267 years after Robert Clive became the governor of Bengal (1755-1760) and set off nearly two centuries of British domination of India that there is now going to a prime minister of the United Kingdom of Indian extraction.
From a junior Member of Parliament from Richmond (Yorks) the 42-year-old Rishi Sunak will become prime minister in a record time. Taking over as a third prime minister of a deeply troubled United Kingdom in seven weeks, Sunak is not expected to have any time to settle down given the multifarious crises his country faces.
Following the laughably short, disastrous reviled 44 days of Liz Truss is no consolation for Sunak who will have to hit the ground running. From the exorbitant cost of living to angry trade union leaders, from dealing with the vagaries of Brexit to tens of thousands of asylum seekers and from Ukraine to a battered pound, Sunak has his plate overflowing.
That he was the chancellor of the exchequer under Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given him a fair amount of familiarity with the state of affairs. In that sense, he will not have begin his learning from the very beginning.
In July 2019 he was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury having entered Government service as the Minister for Local Government in January 2018. In February 2020, he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held until July 2022 when he dramatically resigned throwing the government of then Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a terminal spiral. That eventually led to his rise as Johnson’s successor via Truss.
Britain has in recent weeks come to resemble some of its formal colonies that it plundered for a couple of centuries. In that, Sunak’s rise as the country’s first “non-white” prime minister is both deliciously ironic and instructive.
He was first elected to parliament in 2015 and re-elected in 2017 and 2019. Born on 12 May 1980 in Southampton he is a son of African-born Hindu parents of Punjabi-Indian descent Yashvir and Usha Sunak.
“I grew up watching my parents serve our local community with dedication. My dad was an NHS family GP and my mum ran her own local chemist shop. I wanted to make that same positive difference to people as their Member of Parliament,” says Sunak’s official biography.
“I have been fortunate to enjoy a successful business career. I co-founded a large investment firm, working with companies from Silicon Valley to Bangalore. Then I used that experience to help small and entrepreneurial British companies grow successfully. From working in my mum’s tiny chemist shop to my experience building large businesses, I have seen first-hand how politicians should support free enterprise and innovation to ensure our future prosperity,” it says
“My parents sacrificed a great deal so I could attend good schools. I was lucky to study at Winchester College, Oxford University and Stanford University. That experience changed my life and as a result I am passionate about ensuring everybody has access to a great education. I have been a school governor, a board member of a large youth club, and have always volunteered my time to education programs that spread opportunity,” the biography says.
Sunak is married to Akshata, a daughter of the Infosys billionaire N R Narayana Murthy, in California where he lived for a number of years. They have two daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.
Sunak says he enjoys keeping fit, cricket, football and movies.