JITU PATEL is the former chairman and remains the most influential lay member, of the board of trustees of London’s Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) Mandir in Neasden (popularly known as the Neasden temple).
It is the largest Hindu temple outside India when it was built in 1995, and also Europe’s first traditional stone mandir.
As the former chairman of the trust, Patel regularly mixed with the political elite. In February this year, he welcomed UK home secretary Priti Patel when she dropped into Brent to visit Neasden Temple’s newly-opened Covid-19 vaccination centre.
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir opened the centre on its premises across the street at The Swaminarayan School in Brentfield Road on February 2.
As the focal point of the UK’s Hindu community, BAPS Neasden typically receives over 50,000 visitors a day during Diwali celebrations. Patel also attended a Diwali reception hosted by then prime minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in 2016.
In 2006, he received then prime minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie at the gates of the Mandir as well as David Cameron and his wife, Samantha seven years later for the Hindu New Year celebrations.
Born in Kenya, Patel later moved with his family to spend his teenage years in Zambia, before arriving in London in 1978, where he still lives with his wife Rohini.
His life and career have been based around business and religion – he qualified as a certified accountant with Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) and was always a devout Hindu who took his sevak [service] role very seriously.
His decades of service for BAPS, and as a leading light in the Hindu community, made it inevitable that Patel would rub shoulders with the country’s major politicians, and most of the influential figures in the