Days after Labour Party's Sadiq Khan won the election to become London's next Mayor, British-Sikhs have accused the Labour Party of taking the "Sikh community vote for granted". The Sikh Federation UK said on 9 May that Khan's election paved way for a Sikh candidate to replace him as MP for Tooting in the upcoming by-elections.
British-Sikhs have said that the UK should take inspiration from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has boasted that he has more Sikhs in his Cabinet than Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They noted that while Sikhs only represented 2% of Canadian population, they represented more than 5% of 338 elected MPs.
Gurjeet Singh from the Sikh Federation UK told IBTimes UK: "The focus is on the Labour Party as it has traditionally been supported by the Sikh community, but has steadily been losing Sikh support as it has often taken the Sikh community vote for granted. The Labour Party's current position on representation is problematic."
Singh noted that apart from there being no Sikh MPs, the Labour Party has also not had any Sikh representation in the House of Lords since January 2013, when Lord Tarsem King of West Bromwich died. Citing the two Conservative Sikhs in the House of Lords, Singh said that the Labour Party's situation was "indefensible" and urged them to work with Prime Minister David Cameron to appoint Sikhs in the House of Lords "at the earliest opportunity".
However, Singh said that the Tooting by-election provided the Labour Party with the opportunity to "start the process of change" by putting a credible Sikh candidate on the shortlist. The Sikh Federation UK has listed three potential Sikh candidates that they believe should make it to the list: Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester MP from 2001-2010), Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Labour candidate in Gravensham, 2015) and Jas Athwal (Labour leader of the Council, Redbridge).
Speaking about the Tooting election, Singh said: "We expect at least one of them to make a serious challenge to be shortlisted for Tooting so the Labour Party membership in Tooting is given a better choice of candidates. In all honesty, other Sikhs who think they may have a chance to be selected in Tooting lack the experience and gravitas."