Rishi Sunak’s elevation as British prime minister has made headlines in India, with pundits there claiming his success has made history “come full circle”.
The former chancellor, who won the latest Tory leadership race on Monday, is the first person of Asian origin to become UK prime minister, just as Hindus across the world celebrate Diwali.
He is also the UK’s first Hindu PM and the youngest for more than 200 years at the age of 42.
Mr Sunak was born in Southampton to parents of Punjabi Indian descent, who ran a pharmacy in the South coast city. The future prime minister even worked as a waiter in a celebrated local Indian restaurant as a teenager.
Although there were widespread concerns about the legitimacy of his becoming prime minister in the UK, as he is the fourth Tory to be elected leader by the party rather than the country in recent years, in India his rise was celebrated.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi sent his “warmest congratulations” to Mr Sunak on Twitter and wrote: “As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030. Special Diwali wishes to the ‘living bridge’ of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership.”
Broadcaster NDTV was unrestrained in its joy of Mr Sunak’s elevation.
“Desi (local) boy makes it to 10 Downing Street”, its captions read as they reported on the latest dramatic developments in British politics.
It also headlined its main story on Mr Sunak: “India son rises over the empire. History comes full circle in Britain.
Some Indians said on social media claimed that Mr Sunak becoming prime minister this year would be even more special as India recently celebrated 75 years of independence from British colonial rule.
“This (Diwali) is very special for India’s magnificent cricket victory and in all likelihood, Rishi Sunak, a person of Indian origin, a practising Hindu and our own Narayana Murthy’s son-in-law, becoming prime minister of UK,” Chennai resident D Muthukrishnan wrote on Twitter, referring to the founder of Indian software giant Infosys Limited.
“Rishi Sunak took oath as an MP on (the Hindu holy book) Bhagavad Gita. If he repeats the same for taking oath as prime minister, what a day it is for India, that too on our 75th year of independence from Britain.”
The former chancellor is a practising Hindu and is known to celebrate the festival of lights. He has also been photographed lighting candles outside No 11 to mark the occasion.
Indians typically take immense pride when those who trace their roots to the nation of 1.4 billion people do well abroad, including figures such as US vice president Kamala Harris, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.
Mr Sunak’s family migrated in the 1960s to Britain, which ruled India for about 200 years before the South Asian country gained independence in 1947.
Some British Indian supporters of the Conservatives were also celebrating his rise, with party member Ravi Kumar, 38, from Nottingham, calling it a “watershed moment”.
“I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, and I could not even imagine a non-white prime minister in my lifetime,” he said. “I always just saw it as a white country and we’d come in as children of immigrants… so to see a British Indian leader is phenomenal.”
Sunder Katwala, director of the think tank British Future, also said it was a historic moment, showing the changes in British politics and public life in recent decades.
“It’s a new normal at the top of British politics and partly because of the chaos of politics at the moment,” he said.
“We have the third female prime minister, followed by the first Asian prime minister…Rishi Sunak is actually the fifth British Asian cabinet minister in history, and there wasn’t one until 2010.”
Revelations that Mr Sunak’s wife Akshata Murthy, an Indian citizen, had not been paying British tax on her foreign income through her “non-domiciled” status – available to foreign nationals who do not see Britain as their permanent home – hurt ,Mr Sunak ahead of his race against Liz Truss in the summer.
Murthy, who owns a 0.9 per cent stake in Infosys, later said she would start to pay British tax on her global income. His family wealth has proved a divisive issue for some.
“Rishi Sunak as prime minister isn’t a win for Asian representation,” tweeted opposition Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who also has Indian roots.
“He’s a multimillionaire who, as chancellor, cut taxes on bank profits while overseeing the biggest drop in living standards since 1956. Black, white or Asian: if you work for a living, he is not on your side.”