Sikh News Made In Britain – The Sikh Tycoon Going Home To Clean Up Politics

Made in Britain – the Sikh tycoon going home to clean up politics
From The Times February 10, 2007


Jeremy Page in Punjab

If there is an Indian dream, then Jasbir Khangura has lived it. In 1966, when he was two, his family left their dairy farm in Punjab to live in Britain, where his father set up the first Indian restaurant in Southall.
Jasbir became a British citizen, studied at Isleworth Grammar and the University of Oxford, and forged a career in the hotel business, eventually becoming a millionaire.

Today he owns two detached houses in Hounslow, a successful IT company and the only five-star hotel in the Punjabi city of Ludhiana.
In his spare time, he likes to meet friends at All Bar One in Chiswick, watch {censored}nal play or walk his Labradors, Dennis and Rocky (named after Dennis Bergkamp and David Rocastle, the former {censored}nal players).
He is, in short, the ultimate British Indian success story.

But 40 years after his journey from Punjab began, Mr Khangura has taken an extraordinary step that opens a new chapter in the Indian émigré story. He has given up his British passport and become an Indian citizen again to run in local assembly elections in Punjab on Tuesday.

“By entering Indian politics, I’ll die ten times poorer — and probably earlier,” he told The Times as he cruised between election rallies in a silver Mercedes. “People say it’s a sacrifice, but I don’t see it that way,” he said, gesturing at the potholed streets and farmers labouring barefoot in the fields.
“Politicians need to set standards for people to follow. We’ve got to bring more accountability to Indian public life.”
Mr Khangura, a Sikh, is leading the way among a growing number of nonresident Indians (NRIs) who are trying to break into the notoriously closed and criminalised world of Indian politics.

NRIs have poured millions of pounds of investment into India since its market reforms began to deliver Chinese-style growth. Now they are demanding a greater say in government to protect their investments and to clean up a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy.

Those without Indian citizenship are still denied voting rights (dual citizenship is illegal), but they can fund parties and canvass relatives and friends. Nowhere is that more evident than in Punjab, an agricultural state of 24 million people that accounts for many of the 30 million NRIs worldwide.

About 50,000 have come to Punjab for the election and more than one billion rupees (£12 million) of campaign funds have come from overseas.
“For the first time, NRIs are making the presence felt in elections,” said Harish Puri, an expert on Indian politics. “They are doing it because of India’s rising status, because it has become more respectable — and more worthwhile.”

Chander Parkash, 57, is one of about 250 NRIs from Britain, Canada and America who have returned to support the Khangura campaign. He moved to Britain in 1975 and earned a small fortune running an Indian restaurant, convenience stores and properties in Hampton, West London. “What we’ve learnt in the UK — the real meaning of democracy — we’d like to implement here,” he said.

As a British citizen, he cannot vote, but he has organised rallies, including one on Thursday that attracted 1,000 people.
Mr Khangura hopes to rid his birthplace of the corruption that has left much of it without a functioning sewerage system, or reliable electricity and water supplies. He is standing as the Congress Party candidate for his native constituency of Qila Raipur, which has a population of 275,000, mainly farmers.

Congress has controlled the 117-seat assembly since 2002, but has never won in Qila Raipur, which has been held for the past ten years by Jag-dish Garcha, of the Shiromani Akali Dal party.

The contest is brutally intense, with all the mud-slinging, dirty tricks and razzmatazz characteristic of Indian elections. Mr Khangura accuses his 73-year-old opponent of duping, bribing and intimidating voters to further his business interests in the drugs, liquor and real estate sectors.
Mr Garcha accuses Mr Khangura of fraudulently declaring himself bankrupt in Britain and of secretly filming pornographic films in the bridal suite of his hotel. “He’s only been active here in the last few months,” said Mr Garcha. “How can he understand the problems of local people?”
Some locals express similar resentment at the NRI invasion. Most, however, appear to relish the return of a successful local son — and the prospect of a real alternative in the election. “He has an Oxford education and has proved his loyalty in the last five years,” said Navinder Singh, 65, a farmer.
Mr Khangura, who narrowly failed to win selection as a Labour candidate for Hounslow in 1991, became involved in Punjabi politics when his mother, who never gave upIndian citizenship, stood in the last poll in 2002. Since then his family has used its money and contacts to improve basic infrastructure and services. But locals are most impressed by his decision to give up his British passport in 2006. “I wanted another three or four years in the UK, to see my daughter through school and watch {censored}nal in another Champions League final,” he said.

He has had to make some cosmetic adjustments — such as covering his cropped hair with a turban and playing the paternalistic role of the Indian politician. “People here want their politicians to be arrogant,” he said. “Hence the car.”

If he loses, he plans to run again in 2012. If he wins, he will stay in local politics for 10 to 15 years. After that — who knows? National politics? Prime minister? “I don’t have the exposure to Indian politics to answer that yet,” he said with a smile. “Ask me in five years.”

Indians abroad
30m non-resident Indians abroad
1.7m in the USA
1m in Britain, almost a quarter of its non-white population
3m in Gulf countries. mostly providing unskilled labour
£12.3bn sent home to India by people of Indian origin in 2003-04;3 per cent of GDP
£256bn predicted annual investment in Indian from people of Indian origin by 2015
Source: DFID, National Statistics, India Daily, CIA World Factbook, Indian Government

Source:Made in Britain – the Sikh tycoon going home to clean up politics-News-World-Asia-TimesOnline