London: Party leaders and candidates are in a last-minute scramble for votes as tomorrow’s UK general election is expected to be too close to call with opinion polls indicating just a wafer-thin lead for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives. As opinion polls continue to reflect a knife-edge election, Indian-origin voters are set to play their most proactive role in British electoral history this time.
With just hours to go before polling booths will open across the UK at 0700 (local time) tomorrow, Cameron’s ruling Conservative Party is ahead only by a sliver at 34 per cent and Opposition Labour led by Ed Miliband at 33 per cent. Nick Clegg-led Liberal Democrats, who formed part of the coalition government after the last 2010 elections, have slipped in popularity to fourth position behind the anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP).
An estimated 615,000 migrant Indian votes by virtue of their Commonwealth citizenship coupled with an Indian Diaspora population of an estimated 1.5 million hold a major sway among the 45 million eligible voters in the 2015 election, dubbed as the “most unpredictable” in history. The last elections had set a new record with eight Indian-origin candidates, including two women, being elected to the British Parliament.
Prominent among the Indian-origin candidates are some long-serving MPs like Labour’s Keith Vaz, whose Leicester East seat looks pretty safe this time as well. His sister Valerie Vaz is defending her Walsall South seat. Virendra Sharma is another Labour veteran who is expected to sail through in Ealing Southall and Seema Malhotra from Feltham and Heston is also popular.
On the Tory side, there is a new brother-sister duo of Arun and Suria Photay who are contesting from Birmingham Yardley and Wolverhampton South East respectively. Priti Patel, who has played her part in the Cabinet and as Cameron’s Indian Diaspora Champion, is likely to retain her Witham seat in Essex and first-timer Rishi Sunak, son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayan Murthy is expected to make history from Richmond.
The Conservatives are leading the charge in terms of Indian-origin candidates with 17, followed by Labour and Lib Dems at 14 each.