Local Councillors of the West Midlands city council of England chose Councillor Indian-origin Chaman Lal to serve as Birmingham’s first citizen, making him the city’s first Indian-origin Lord Mayor.
He was appointed to this position during an annual Mayor making ceremony on May 23, reported by the official Government site of Birmingham city. He would be replacing Councillor Maureen Cornish.
Mayor Lal is a well-known member of the Ravidassia Sikh community in Britain and belongs to the Labour party. According to the Birmingham Mail, he had previously held the position of councillor for Soho and the Jewellery Quarter for 29 years before accepting the prestigious position at a ceremony to elect the mayor at the Birmingham city council building in Victoria Square.
Mayor Lal described it as a “very proud moment” in a speech to council members and notable guests. “It is a very proud moment for me and our family, as a son of an army officer born in India, but made in Birmingham. I am an adopted Brummie, and I never thought that one day I would become the lord mayor of my adopted city. I would like to thank my fellow councillors for electing me as their first citizen and of our great city which happens to be the highest civic role entrusted to a serving councillor”.
He expressed his gratitude towards his wife, Vidya Wati, who will be the Lady Mayoress, “As the saying goes, behind every successful man is a great woman, which happens to be true in my life, as I couldn’t have made this achievement without the support of some very important women in my life”.
Lal thanked Labour councillor Sybil Spence for getting him into politics, “Sybil help me enter politics in 1994. She is my little godmother, but sometimes she can cause a bit of an embarrassment to me when she tells people that I am one of her sons out of wedlock. I know she means this in a loving way”. He added, “I want to be known not as lord mayor of Birmingham, but lord mayor for all the people of Birmingham. I look forward to your support for the charity and to promote our great city to make it even greater”.
As per the Birmingham Government site, Chaman Lal was born in the Indian state of Punjab in Pakhowal village in the Hoshiarpur district. His father, Sardar Harnam Singh (Banga), was a British-Indian army officer who participated in the Italian campaign during World War II.
In 1964, Lal accompanied his mother, Sardarni Jai Kaur, to England to be with his father, who shifted in 1954 and got settled in Birmingham. He studied at Wattville Secondary Modern School and completed his education by taking evening courses at Matthew Boulton and Sandwell Colleges.
He continued his studies at the local Polytechnic by completing part-time degree programmes in economics and law. He is qualified as an engineer in electronics and worked in an electronics company. But after gaining some experience he left his job, and established his own electronics business and started other businesses also.
In 1989, he joined the Labour Party and participated in many social justice campaigns to question inequality and discrimination. In 1994, Lal was first elected as a Councillor for the Soho Ward. Currently, he is the Councillor for the Soho and Jewellery Quarter Ward.
He served on various committees for the past 29 years. Lal served as a ” …cabinet advisor for major transport projects and recently as the Chair of the Sustainability and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He has served many years on the West Midlands Transport Authority and has a keen interest in improving public transport. As Chair of the Transport Scrutiny Committee, he led several Task and Finish Groups including making the recommendations for the best e-ticketing solution for the WMPTA which led to the introduction of the contactless travel (Swift Card) in the West Midlands area. His other policy reviews resulted in more late night and early morning bus services to meet the needs of the night economy as well as early morning workers”.
Approximately 1.4 million Indians live in the UK now, making them the single largest visible ethnic minority group. British Indians are working and excelling in every sphere of life. Recently in May, Councillor Jaswant Singh Birdi of Bablake became the first turban-wearing Lord Mayor of Coventry. He belongs to the Conservative party and served as the local councillor for 16 years, as per the government website of Coventry.
Last year, Rishi Sunak became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He replaced Liz Truss last year in October 2022. Sunak comes from the Conservative party.