Gujarati-origin woman scripts Tories’ only gain; Shivani Raja broke Labour’s grip on Leicester East

LONDON: There was a silver lining on an otherwise dark night for the Tories on Thursday. Gujarati-origin businesswoman Shivani Raja (29) won Leicester East — the only Conservative gain of the night. Raja won with 14,526 votes, beating Labour’s Rajesh Agrawal, former deputy mayor of London who came second with 10,100.
Leicester East had been held by Labour since 1987.The area was rocked by riots in 2022, something Raja referred to after her triumph.
Padma Shri awardee and Conservative MP Bob Blackman bucked the national trend and increased his majority in Harrow East from 8,170 to 11,860, beating his Indian-origin Labour opponent Primesh Patel. Harrow East has a large Indian diaspora, especially from Gujarat and south India. Many of them helped with Blackman’s campaign. Blackman now plans to throw his hat in the ring to be the chairman of the 1922 committee, the committee of backbench Tory MPs which organises the process to choose the next Conservative party leader.
Raja was born in Leicester. Her mother moved to the UK from Rajkot and her father, a Gujarati, moved from Kenya in the 1970s. She works in the family property construction and hospitality business. Raja told

TOI

that voters felt very disenfranchised and backed her as she was local, unlike some other candidates who had been “parachuted in”.
“They had lost faith in politicians as previous MPs had not really stood for the people. There was no one standing that was relatable and people saw me as a breath of fresh air. They were also disappointed that the previous MP did not stand up for Leicester during the riots and immediately blamed Hindus before speaking to anyone,” Raja said.
Keith Vaz first won Leicester East in 1987. Claudia Webbe, who won the seat in 2019 for Labour but then got expelled from the party over a criminal conviction and stood as an independent, got 5,532 votes. Vaz, who stood for One Leicester, got 3,681 votes.
As for Blackman, he has the task cut for him. If elected as chairman of the 1922 committee, he will organise the leadership contest to replace Rishi Sunak, who bowed out as PM after last week’s election results.
The panel’s former chairman, Graham Brady, stood down at this election. Blackman told the

Daily Telegraph

: “I’ve been around since 1992. I’ve been through all the seminal events with Theresa May, Boris, Liz Truss and the election of Rishi.” He said the Conservatives needed a “chairman with the authority to be able to get the party together to be able to hear every view.”
Co-chair of Conservative Friends of India Ameet Jogia, a former No.10 political advisor and political aide to Lord Popat, failed to win Hendon by just 15 seats — the lowest margin in the country. He is now taking legal advice about launching a possible judicial review against Barnet council for not sending postal ballots to people on time.
Had Jogia, a Harrow-born Gornari Soni whose parents moved to the UK from Tanzania, been elected, he would have become the first member of the Soni community in the House of Commons. Thousands of voters in 120 constituencies are thought to have been impacted by delayed and missing postal ballots. Jogia told

The Telegraph

he personally knows constituents would have voted for him but their postal votes never arrived. “In my case this would have made a difference.”

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