Rishi Sunak, a ‘proud Hindu’, is new UK PM: 5 things to know
For Sunak, who is set to be UK’s first Hindu prime minister, the victory couldn’t have come on a better day than Diwali. By Monday afternoon, he had amassed public nominations from nearly all top Tory lawmakers, pipping his only remaining rival in the race — Penny Mordaunt — who had the public backing of just 26 lawmakers. She later withdrew from the race.
Here’s all you need to know about Rishi Sunak, UK’s new PM …
Sunak will create history by becoming the first person of Indian heritage and the first person of Hindu faith to lead Britain.
His grandparents were from Punjab and emigrated to Britain from eastern Africa in the 1960s.
They arrived with “very little”, Sunak told MPs in his maiden speech in 2015.
His father was a family doctor in Southampton on the southern English coas, and his mother ran a local pharmacy.
Growing up, Sunak waited tables in a local Indian restaurant, before progressing to Oxford and then Stanford University in California.
He insists that both his own family’s experience, and that of his mega-rich wife’s, are a “very Conservative” story of hard work and aspiration.
Besides English, he knows both Hindi and Punjabi.
A ‘proud Hindu’
Sunak is a devout Hindu and is a regular at the temple where he was born in Southampton.
His daughters, Anoushka and Krishna, are also rooted in the Indian culture.
When he became an MP, he swore his oath of allegiance on the Bhagavad Gita.
Sunak has said in public that even though he is a British citizen, he also remains a “proud Hindu”.
The Murthy connection
Sunak met his wife, Akshata Murthy, a fashion designer, when he was studying for MBA at Stanford University in California.
They tied the knot in August 2009.
Akshata is the daughter of Infosys co-founder and one of India’s richest men Narayana Murthy and philanthropist Sudha Murty.
Sunak has often said that he is “incredibly proud of his in-laws”.
Sunak is said to be the richest man in the House of Commons with a massive net worth of £730 million. Some reports had indicted that his wife Akshata is even wealthier than the Queen. (now, the King since Queen Elizabeth II’s demise).
Sunak and his wife made their debut in the annual ‘Sunday Times Rich List’ earlier this year.
The bulk of their wealth is believed to come from Murty’s £690-million stake in Infosys. But Sunak also had a lucrative career in finance before entering politics in 2015 as a member of Conservative Party.
The couple have homes in London, in Sunak’s parliamentary constituency in Yorkshire and in Santa Monica, California.
Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty have consistently been under the scanner for their wealth.
Sunak’s political career began with winning a safe Tory seat of Richmond in Yorkshire in 2015 and from junior roles in the Treasury.
He was suddenly catapulted to the post of Chancellor of Exchequer when his former boss, Sajid Javid, resigned in February 2020.
He proved the doubters who feared his inexperience of high office would see him overpowered by his new boss, Johnson, wrong as he credibly led the economic response to the Covid pandemic.
He was constantly touted as the heir apparent to Johnson until that took a beating with some of his less popular tax hike policies in the wake of the pandemic.
Sunak’s opponents targeted him over his record as Chancellor until his resignation precipitated Johnson’s exit.
He stood firm on his focus on inflation rather than any vote-winning tax cut promises to woo a traditionally low-tax favouring Conservative Party membership base.
Earlier this year, his wife Akshata stoked a controversy when she said that claims non-domicile tax status, meaning that she does not have to pay UK taxes on income earned elsewhere.
The revelation suddenly put Sunak’s political future in doubt, and he had to beat back calls for his resignation.
It also emerged that he had retained a US green card, which would allow him to live permanently in the United States, even while he was chancellor.
Sunak gave up the green card last October, and in the spring his wife said she would pay taxes in Britain on her overseas income.
The Indian-origin leader was also slapped with a partygate fine for attending a birthday event for Johnson in breach of lockdown rules.