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British NRIs expect immigration cuts, pro-rich policies

NRIs may well grit their teeth at the new Conservative-Lib Dem government. The new British government will probably come down hard on immigration and introduce economic policies that help the rich. Plus, the Tories usually have cool relations with India.

Never mind that many of the estimated 2.5 million Asians voted for the Tories and Lib Dems. The rich Hindu NRIs usually vote for the Conservatives to protect their business interests but Muslims, angry at Britain's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, voted for the Conservatives. From a record number of 89 Asian candidates, including 30 from the Conservatives, 18 have been elected.

A businessman in Leicester, Jolly Seth, said: "What we see now is a change in the Asian voting pattern. Traditionally, they have been Labour supporters, but today the Lib Dems are pulling in a lot of Asian support, especially from the young professionals. Mostly, Asian business people did not vote Labour as they feel they are suffering because of their policies; the working class are unemployed, and they blame the Labour government."

London-based author and journalist Shamlal Puri said: "Labour has traditionally had a soft spot for Asian candidates as they lay great value on the Asian vote. Conservatives are not pro-Asian in many ways and just give lip service to capture the Asian vote. A lot of British Asians turned to their Labour MPs for help in bringing their relatives to Britain on compassionate grounds when the immigration laws blocked their entry. The Labour Party has encouraged enterprise involving Asians."

"The Conservatives are seen pro-white with little to contribute to the Asian diaspora here. But the Tories have taken note of this and have now thrown an olive branch to the minorities here," Puri added.

A property owner and entrepreneur, Renuka Bhatt-Dhalla, said, "Britain desperately needs bold, decisive government with dynamic economic policies if we are to avoid the nightmare into which Greece has plunged. The Asians can expect tighter immigration control; so it will probably affect them in terms of calling their friends and family to visit Britain, or marrying foreigners.

"I feel the Labour party is the closest to the aspiration of Asians because I have lived in this country for 45 years and it was the Labour government that settled the Ugandan Asians with great compassion. The majority of these Asians are now quite well-to-do and have contributed to Britain's economy."

She said Labour councillors always take great interest in Asians' cultural activities and are always present at their functions.

"Recently, they all attended a Holi function organised by the Asian community and it was nice to see the councillors covered with the colours of Holi and really enjoying themselves," she added.

Leading businessman and philanthropist Raj Loomba said: "Immigration is of crucial importance for Asians. It is felt that it needs to be controlled from both eastern Europe and other countries. Unskilled workers may not be allowed as there is high unemployment here. The economic policies need to boost business for the turnaround."

A broadcaster, Chaman Lal Chaman, said: "The Conservatives have decided to cut immigration from the non-EU countries, whereas Lib Dems will grant amnesty to all illegal immigrants living in the country for the last 10 years. Let us see how they compromise in this issue. The total number of illegal immigrants is estimated to be around a million people. Both the Conservatives and Labour believe that this amnesty will send a signal of safe passage to further influx of illegal immigrants. The Conservatives have promised a stricter border controls."

Although the Labour party had very cordial relations with India - after all, it was Labour that was in favour of independence for India - the Tories have no choice but to establish good ties too.

"The British need India more than India needs them. India's services industry is a valuable asset to Britain because in the current credit crunch they have to turn to countries like India to obtain these services at lower costs. India is a major trading partner and an investor in Britain," Puri said.

Adds Chaman, "Labour ministers who have been visiting India have shown a great deal of interest in India as a major emerging economic power and of major investors like Tata and Mittal who own major British companies. Mittal is the wealthiest person in Britain, and he still holds an Indian passport. Now the new government will have to establish strong Indo-British ties."