07th July 2022: Boris Johnson resigned as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, making way for a new Prime Minister for the country.
08th July 2022: Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his bid to become the next PM of the UK and leader of the Conservative Party.
But who is Rishi Sunak?
The Former Finance Minister of the UK, Rishi Sunak is a 42-year-old Tory MP who was born in the UK’s Southampton to Indian origin parents. He is the son of mother Usha Sunak, a pharmacist and father Yashvir Sunak, a National Health Service (NHS) general practitioner. His grandparents were born in Punjab, India and had migrated to East Africa, before they moved to Britain in the 1960s.
“Let me tell you a story about a young woman almost a lifetime ago, who boarded a plane armed with hope for a better life, and the love of her family. This young woman came to Britain, where she managed to find a job. But it took her nearly a year to save enough money for her husband and children to follow her. One of those children was my mother, aged 15. My mom studied hard and got the qualifications to become a pharmacist. She met my dad at an NHS GP, and they settled in Southampton. Their story didn’t end there. But that is where my story began,” he said while narrating the story of how his maternal grandmother flew all the way to Britain for a better life.
Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy
Rishi is married to Akshata Murthy, the daughter of India’s leading IT company ‘Infosys’ CoFounder Narayan Murthy. Rishi and Akshata have two young daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.
Sunak once told The Sun newspaper that if he achieves a tenth of what his father-in-law has achieved in his life, he’d be a happy person. He also stated that he is really very proud of what he’s achieved in his career.
Rishi completed his schooling at Winchester College. To pursue Masters in Business Administration, he went to Oxford University and Stanford University and won the prestigious Fullbright scholarship.
The Political Career of Rishi Sunak
Rishi made his appearance in Politics in 2015 when he got elected as the Conservative MP for Richmond, Yorkshire. Rishi was one of the early supporters of former PM Boris Johnson during his ‘leave EU campaign’.
In 2016, he clearly stated that the UK should leave the EU as this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for UK to take back control of its destiny. Leaving the European Union will bring some uncertainty, but on balance, the United Kingdom will be freer, fairer and more prosperous if it leaves the organization”
Rishi’s political career took a major turn when he became the junior minister in former UK PM Theresa May’s government. He made history in February 2020 when, after a cabinet reshuffle, he was promoted to the most important UK Cabinet post – The Chancellor of the Exchequer. This post lies third in the ministerial ranking, placed behind two prominent positions – Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, the entire world witnessed the rage of the deadly Covid 19 virus. The newly elected Chancellor, Rishi had to face the tough challenges of leading the economy. He took the pledge to help and serve the citizens of the UK and announced a £330 billion rescue package guaranteeing to help those in financial difficulty. The package also included a ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ which averted mass unemployment.
The Partygate Scandal & other Criticisms
Rishi Sunak’s popularity took a major hit due to the Partygate Scandal (A series of parties and other gatherings of government and Conservative Party held against Covid 19 lockdown rules in 2020 at 10 Downing Street created a scandal which later came to be known as Partygate Scandal).
Rishi Sunak offered an “unreserved apology” and paid the fine imposed on him by Scotland Yard as he reportedly breached the rules imposed during the lockdown in June 2020.
As per the official data, during his tenure as chancellor, British annual inflation hit a fresh 40-year high, with warnings from the Bank of England that it would increase further by another 11 per cent.
The Tax Claims
Rishi Sunak suffered another personal scandal when the controversy emerged over Akshata Murthy. It emerged that she claims non-domicile tax status which means that she does not have to pay UK taxes on income earned overseas. Although saving on tax through the non-domicile status is optional and not unlawful, The Labour Party said it was ‘breathtaking hypocrisy’, especially in light of Sunak raising taxes for millions of workers.
Following the controversy, Akshata announced that she would begin paying the taxes.
Akshata Murthy owns a 0.93 per cent stake in Infosys. As of April 2022, Infosys has a market capitalization of approximately $100 billion. For a better understanding, owning a 0.03 per cent stake in a company which is worth $100 billion clearly states that Akshata’s foreign earnings amount to many millions of dollars.
Despite several criticisms, Rishi Sunak is one of the top contenders to replace Boris Johnson and become the first Indian-origin Prime Minister of the UK.
Rishi Sunak resigned from his position of Finance Minister on 5th July 2022. He wrote in his resignation letter that Boris Johnson and his approach to fundamental things are too different now. He also mentioned that this position could possibly be his last job in the ministry but his principles are worth fighting for and because of this, he wants to resign from his position. Rishi posted his resignation on Twitter after fellow cabinet minister Sajid Javid and the UK Health secretary resigned from their respective positions.
Various senior Conservative members of the Parliament have backed Rishi’s candidacy and promoted his ‘Ready for Rishi’ campaign.
What is the ‘Ready for Rishi’ Campaign?
A day after Bors Johnson resigned from his position, Rishi launched his campaign ‘Ready For Rishi’ for the Tory leadership.
Sunak said during the campaign on Twitter that Someone has to grip this moment and make the correct decisions. That’s why he is standing to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
I’ve been truly overwhelmed by the support and so grateful for the thousands of people who have signed up to join the campaign.
Together we will restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.
— Ready For Rishi (@RishiSunak) July 9, 2022
The Tory Leadership Election
Tory refers to a member of the Conservative Party in Great Britain or Canada. This is how Conservatives select a new Prime Minister for their country:
Step 1: Candidates put themselves forward.
Step 2: Tory MPs vote for their favourite candidate over multiple rounds. In the first round, candidates receiving fewer than 30 votes are eliminated. In the second round, one with fewer votes is eliminated. Successive rounds continue until only the two candidates remain.
Step 3: The final two contenders face off in a straight ballot among Conservative Party members
Step 4: The winner becomes the party leader and the new Prime Minister of the country.
Who all are the Top Contenders in the Race?
A total of 8 Conservative MPs launched their bid to become the next Prime Minister of the UK.
- Rishi Sunak, Former Finance Minister
- Jeremy Hunt, Former Foreign and Health Secretary
- Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary
- Nadhim Zahawi, newly appointed Finance Minister
- Tom Tugendhat, Foreign Affairs Committment Chair
- Penny Mordaunt, Trade Minister
- Suella Braverman, Attorney general and arch Brexiteer
- Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary
- Kemi Badenoch, Former Equalities Minister
Lawmakers Rehman Chishti and Sajid Javid expressed their intentions to race but later withdrew before the final list was announced.
The First Round of Voting
The first round of voting was scheduled for the afternoon of 13th July i.e. Wednesday, with candidates needing more than 30 MP votes to remain in the race.
In the first voting, Rishi Sunak won the biggest backing from Conservative lawmakers. He secured 88 of the party’s 358 Members of Parliament (MPs), with Penny Mordaunt second with 67 votes and foreign minister Liz Truss third with 50 votes.
Nadhim Zahawi, who became the Finance Minister after Sunak resigned, and former foreign minister Jeremy Hunt were knocked out after failing to get the required minimum number of votes. Both the candidates joined the other three contenders who dropped out the day before.
While Rishi is the most popular contender with his colleagues, a YouGov poll of nearly 900 party members found Mordaunt was the favourite.
Second Round of Voting
The remaining contenders went through the second round on the 14th of July i.e. Thursday.
Rishi Sunak won the maximum number of votes in the second round of voting. He bagged 101 votes and again emerged as the winner of the latest round.
After the second round, five contenders are left in the Tory leadership contest after Suella Braverman was knocked off the shortlist with only 27 votes.
Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt (83 votes), Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (64 votes), former minister Kemi Badenoch (49 votes), and Tory backbencher Tom Tugendhat (32 votes) remain on the ballot after the lawmakers cast the second round of votes.
Third Round of Voting
Rishi Sunak added 14 more votes to his tally in the third round of voting by Tory members. He bagged a total of 115 votes in the third round.
After the third round of voting which happened on the 19th of July (Monday), only four candidates are left in the race.
Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt secured second place with 82 votes followed by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss with 71 votes and former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch at 58 votes.
Fourth Round of Voting
In the fourth round of voting, Rishi remained intact in the first position with 118 votes, followed by 92 votes earned by Penny Mordaunt, and 86 garnered by Liz Truss.
Fifth Round of Voting
The fifth round of voting happened on 20th July in which Rishi got 137 votes while Liz Truss got the support of 113 MPs. Penny was eliminated from the race as he only got 105 votes.
Rishi Sunak will now compete with Truss for the post of Prime Minister.
After this, the race will be taken over by the Conservative Party headquarters to organize hustings in different parts of the country. The entire process will end with convincing the membership base of the Tory party, estimated at approximately 180,000 voters.
In a TV Debate that happened on 04th August, Rishi Sunak won a show of hands against Liz Truss. Even the television presenter, Kay Burley, after a glitch in the electronic voting system, admitted after the voting, ‘I wasn’t expecting that.’
While this may indicate the victory of Rishi but opinion polls are painting a different picture.
Two recent polls (conducted by the website ConservativeHome and YouGov) gave Truss a decisive lead over Rishi.
The new leader of the UK is due to be announced when the House of Commons returns on September 5, 2022.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Who is Rishi Sunak?
Rishi Sunak is the former finance minister of the UK who can become the first Indian-origin prime minister of the United Kingdom.
2. Can he become the UK’s next prime minister?
Rishi Sunak on July 13, won the biggest backing from Conservative lawmakers.
3. Which constituency does rishi Sunak represent?
Rishi Sunak, a Conservative, represents Richmond (Yorks), a constituency in North Yorkshire.
4. Is Rishi Sunak a billionaire?
Rishi Sunak’s net worth is estimated to be £200 million. He recently built a £400,000 leisure complex at his £2 million Yorkshire mansion.
5. How old is Rishi Sunak?
Rishi Sunak is 42 years old. He was born on 12 May 1980.
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