Continuing efforts to widen the Conservative Party'ssupport among British Hindus, party leader David Cameron lavished praise on the achievements of the community at the Bhaktivedanta temple here.
Cameron, who recently visited India and returned full of praise for India'sgrowing economy and democracy, recently addressed a large gathering of the Hindu community in Leicester at a ?Ramkatha? function of spiritual leader Morari Bapu.
On the evening of October 17, Cameron mingled easily with Hindu priests and community members at the haktivedanta temple in Watford, and even joked about hoping to be able to meet Indian star Aishwarya Rai during his next visit to Mumbai.
Cameron said: ?I?d like to say something about the Hindu community. It'sno surprise that you have become such a successful part of British society. Many of the values that Hindus brought with them when they arrived here are those traditionally associated with Britain: tolerance, honesty, enterprise and respect for the law.
?Hindus make up one per cent of the population of England and Wales but only 0.025 per cent of the prison population. You live independently of the Government but never shirk from contributing to society.
?Hindus have the lowest level of unemployment of any minority community. And you help to strengthen those things that have been in decline here, such as commitment to the family. Hindus are more likely to stay married than people from any other community in Britain.
?The Hindu community isn'tsimply a part of this country in a strictly demographic sense. It'smuch more important than that. You?re a vital element of the new Britain that we?re building together.
?Every community needs role models. I want to see more Hindus advance to the highest levels in the army, the udiciary and the civil services. I also want to see more Hindu MPs?.
Claiming he had succeeded in moving the Conservatives ?back to the centre ground of British politics? during his 20 months as party leader, Cameron said the British people deserved a real choice of government.
Recalling his visit to India, he said he was ?hugely impressed? by what he saw the dynamism of the Indian economy; the vibrancy of Indian democracy and what he called as the ?clear sense that here is an emerging superpower?.
?I made a speech in Mumbai in which I made it clear that I want to see a new special relationship for the 21st century between Britain and India. We have so much in common. Not simply because of our shared heritage, values and the English language. ?But also because of the challenges we face together. Key issues such as the impact of globalisation and the threat of terrorism. And, of course, the need to create and maintain successful, pluralist and multi-faith democracies.
?Like any large and diverse country, India has its problems. But there is a strong sense that everyone?Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian?is an Indian. Equally, all of here in this country need a shared sense of being British?.
Cameron'sparticipation at the Watford temple and earlier in Leicester at Morari Bapu function is seen as a concerted bid to enlist the support of Hindus?given that the party is unlikely to make any headway among the large community of Muslims in Britain.
As a whole, Britain'sAsian community has traditionally supported the Labour Party, but Conservative Party sources say, that it can no longer be taken for granted. The Conservative Party has been working among the Hindu community in the inner city areas in various parts of Britain.
At the Leicester function, Cameron had connected with many in the large audience by supporting the demand that Hindus in Britain should be called ?British Hindus? or ?British Indians? and not ?British Asians?.
(The writer is a UK-based journalist)