Is BJP meddling in UK elections?

In this year’s election in UK, to be held on December 12, Overseas Friends of BJP UK, a support group of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has been moving around and cautioning Indians not to vote for Labour party candidates. British Hindus are being targeted by WhatsApp groups urging them to vote against Labour in the general election, accusing the party of being “anti-India” and “anti-Hindu”.

The messages have also included videos by rightist and anti-Muslim activists. They are attempting to ethnically and communally divide British Indians by playing up issues between British Pakistanis and Indians, as well as different religious groups. One message said:

The Labour party is now the mouth-piece of the Pakistani government. It is anti-India, anti-Hindu and anti-Narendra Modi. So if there are any Indians who are still voting for Labour, or are still members of the Labour party–then respectfully I say, they are traitors to their ancestral land, to their family and friends in India and to their cultural heritage.”

The primary reason for hostility towards Labour Party has been the fact that the Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn only a couple of months back had criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government for adopting repressive measures in Kashmir. The BJP was angry over Labour’s stance on the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Overseas Friends of BJP UK have been campaigning for the Tories in 48 marginal seats. Their campaigns on websites describe the Labour as “a bunch of left-wing nutters indulging in their prejudices”. Videos sent to Hindu voters via WhatsApp include one in which the right-wing broadcaster Katie Hopkins complains “Islam is taking over my country”, as she criticises a demonstration about Kashmir by British Muslims taking part on Diwali. Others messages include videos by Anne Marie Waters, who leads the far-right For Britain Movement.

The Charity Commission had in the past intervened in the issue of political activity by Hindu temples. Just before the 2015 and 2017 general elections, the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT) had sent out emails urging Hindus to vote Conservative. The Charity Commission intervened on both occasions and forced the NCHT to withdraw its advice. It is expected that the Charity Commission would once again intervene this time to put a stop to the vilification campaign.

Last month the NCHT had sent a letter to Jeremy Corbyn accusing the Labour Party of “internal apartheid” and “anti-Indian racism”. It also came out with the preposterous claim that Labour was “perilously close to becoming direct supporters of Islamist terror organisations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS”.

By and large, British Indians share the view that people should not be encouraged to vote on ethnic or religious lines.

(By arrangement with IPA)

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