England Labor Party criticized for using Prime Minister Modi's image to target Boris Johnson

England Labor Party criticized for using Prime Minister Modi's image to target Boris Johnson

The UK’s Opposition Labour Party was branded “divisive” and “anti-India” by Indian diaspora groups after a celebration leaflet for a by-election in northern England used a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The leaflet, in circulation for the Batley and Spen by-poll in West Yorkshire scheduled for Thursday, shows Modi during a handshake with Conservative Party Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G7 Summit in 2019 with the message “Don’t risk a Tory MP who isn't on your side”.

It triggered furious reactions across social media after Tory MP Richard Holden posted a picture of it on Twitter, questioning whether it implies that Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer wouldn't be seen during a handshake with the Indian Prime Minister.

“Dear Keir Starmer, please are you able to explain this leaflet and clarify whether a Labour PM/politician would refuse to possess any relationship with the world’s largest democracy? is that this your message to 1.5 million members of the Indian diaspora in UK,” questioned the Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) diaspora organisation.

The outrage was echoed from within the Labour Party ranks, with the Labour Friends of India (LFIN) diaspora group demanding the “immediate withdrawal” of the leaflet.

“The Labour Party is true to call out Boris Johnson’s lack of action following the conclusion that anti-Muslim sentiment remains a drag within the Conservative Party . it's unfortunate that the Labour Party used an image of the Prime Minister of India, the world’s largest democracy and one among the UK's closest friends, from the G7 meeting in 2019, on its leaflet,” LFIN said in its statement.

Indian-origin veteran Labour MP Virendra Sharma also condemned the move as “cheap divide and rule” and “dog-whistle” politics undeserving of Labour.

“The Labour Party will win by bringing people together and uniting the community, to try to to anything will divide our community and play into Tory hands,” said Sharma, who represents Ealing Southall in London – a constituency with an outsized Indian diaspora presence.

Another Indian-origin Labour MP, Navendu Mishra, took to Twitter to declare that “racism is alive and well within Labour”.

“A hierarchy of racism exists inside the party and a few groups are seen as prey for attacks supported religion/race/heritage,” said Mishra, MP for Stockport in northern England.

“Labour won't win by playing divide and rule politics against our communities. we'll win supported a principled stance against racism and discrimination of all types inside and out of doors the party,” he said.

The Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) group reacted by organising a letter of complaint to party leader Starmer, criticising the “votebank politics” of the campaign leaflet.

“OFBJP objects to the present quite anti-India branding only for votebank politics. Such posters and statements are clearly a symbol of divisive politics played by Labour,” said OFBJP President Kuldeep Shekhawat.

Angry messages dominated the first Twitter post on social media, with many remarking that it had been Labour’s perceived “anti-India stance" that was among the factors behind its bruising defeat within the 2019 election under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The by-election in Batley and Spen, a standard Labour stronghold, is seen as an important test of Starmer’s leadership after the Opposition party fared poorly in recent byelections.

The by-poll in the week follows the previous Labour MP, Tracy Brabin, stepping down after being elected Mayor of West Yorkshire and has Kim Leadbeater within the fray for the party, the sister of Jo Cox – the Labour MP murdered near her constituency office during a far-right attack in June 2016.

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