• Friday, July 19, 2024


Sunak, Akshata seek blessings at Neasden Temple

“I am Hindu and like all of you, I draw inspiration and comfort from my faith,” said Sunak.

Rishi Sunak (R) and his wife Akshata Murty visit the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London on June 29, 2024. (Photo by DAN KITWOOD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

PRIME MINISTER Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty sought divine blessings on the last weekend ahead of the July 4 general election at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London, popularly known as Neasden Temple.

The couple were greeted with loud cheers as their convoy drove into the mandir grounds on Saturday (29) evening and went on to perform puja guided by the priests.

After a tour of the grand temple complex and interaction with volunteers and senior community leaders, cricket fan Sunak began his address to the congregation with a reference to India’s victory in the T20 World Cup before speaking about the inspiration he draws from his faith.
“I am Hindu and like all of you, I draw inspiration and comfort from my faith,” said Sunak.

“I was proud to be sworn in as a member of parliament on the ‘Bhagavad Gita’. Our faith teaches us to do our duty and not fret about the outcome as long as one does it faithfully. That is what I was brought up to believe by my wonderful and loving parents and that is how I live my life; and that is what I want to pass on to my daughters as they grow up. It is dharma which guides me in my approach to public service,” he said.

Sunak went on to reference his general practitioner (GP) father and pharmacist mother’s community service and also the “wonderful work” his philanthropist mother-in-law, Sudha Murty, does in India.

“My wife is not only the greatest support that any husband could ever have but also someone committed to public service,” he added.

As Britain’s first Indian heritage prime minister, the 44-year-old expressed his gratitude to the community for their “prayers and love” and pledged to try and continue making them proud.

“You have been with me every step of the way. On the hardest days in this job, I have felt your backing. And I know the pride that there is to have a British Asian Prime Minister and I am determined to never let you down,” he said.

Alluding to the recent controversy around a far-right Reform UK activist attacking him with a racist slur during the election campaign, the British Indian leader stressed on the country’s multi-faith credentials.

“I’m proud to be the first British Asian prime minister, but I’m even prouder that it is not a big deal. The events of the last few days should not make us forget that the United Kingdom is the world’s most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy and we should all be uplifted by that,” said Sunak, amid applause.

“With your support, I will create a secure future for our country where Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and Jains, those of all religions and none, feel equally at home, where everyone has the security they deserve,” he said.

On the election pitch for his incumbent Tory party, he name-checked some of the Tory candidates contesting from constituencies in and around the temple in north London and reiterated some of his core policy themes around tax cuts and education.

He also drew parallels between the values of his party and the Indian diaspora: “Education, hard work, family, those are my values. Those are your values. Those are Conservative values.”

Sunak and Murty had last visited a BAPS temple during his visit to India for the G20 Summit in September, when they offered prayers at the Akshardham Temple in New Delhi.

During their visit to the London temple, they performed abhishek of Shri Nilkanth Varni Maharaj, the teenage form of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and concluded their visit by mingling with the crowds.

“This mandir stands as a great statement of the contributions that this community makes to Britain. When I travelled to India for the G20, it was an honour to visit the Akshardham,” said Sunak, who was virtually mobbed as he reached out for high-fives with the young children and bent down to touch the feet of the elderly to seek their blessings, one of whom handed him some spiritual beads which he put in his pocket.

“I am praying hard for your win, make sure you get it,” said one volunteer, to which Sunak responded: “Oh my gosh, thank you, that means a lot.”

Murty, dressed in a bright blue saree, also mingled among the ladies and spent time interacting with the little children who were excited to see her.


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