(The Article was first published on 10 July 2022 and is being republished from The Quint's archives as Rishi Sunak won the Conservative Party leadership race, becoming the first non-white UK prime minister.)
"Family is everything to me," said Rishi Sunak, the former Cabinet minister in the Boris Johnson government in a video uploaded on Twitter on Friday, 8 July, while announcing his bid to lead the Conservative party and become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom.
In the 2.30-minute-long video, Sunak spoke at length about his family.
Sunak's bid to become the prime minister comes days after Boris Johnson announced that he was stepping down as the Conservative party leader. A spate of resignations, including that of Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Sunak's, along with 40 others, led to the ouster of Johnson.
Now, Rishi Sunak is one of the top contenders to replace Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. In February 2020, the Indian-origin leader was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held until July 2022 till his resignation.
Here's a look at his multi-cultural background and family history.
Ancestry in Punjab
Both of Rishi's grandfathers were born in Punjab and later moved to East Africa. His parents, Yashvir Sunak and Usha Sunak, were born in Kenya and Tanganyika respectively. In an interview with Business Standard in 2015, he revealed that his maternal grandfather received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) “after decades and decades” of working for Inland Revenue, the tax office. In the 1960s, his grandparents moved to the United Kingdom from East Africa with their children.
His father was a General Practitioner (GP) in the National Health Service (NHS) while his mother ran a pharmacy. Rishi was born in 1980 in Southampton, a county in Southern England, and is the eldest among the siblings – Rishi, Sanjay, and Rakhi.
In his video, Sunak narrated the story of how his maternal grandmother flew all the way to Britain "armed with hope for a better life."
"Let me tell you a story about a young woman almost a lifetime ago, who boarded a plane armed with hope for a better life, and the love of her family. This young woman came to Britain, where she managed to find a job. But it took her nearly a year to save enough money for her husband and children to follow her. One of those children was my mother, aged 15. My mom studied hard and got the qualifications to become a pharmacist. She met my dad at an NHS GP, and they settled in Southampton. Their story didn't end there. But that is where my story began," he said.
"Family is everything to me. And my family gave me opportunities they could only dream of. But it was Britain, our country that gave them, and millions like them, the chance of a better future," he added.
Talking about his multi-cultural roots and Indian lineage, he said in the Business Standard interview, “British Indian is what I tick on the census, we have a category for it. I am thoroughly British, this is my home and my country, but my religious and cultural heritage is Indian, my wife is Indian. I am open about being a Hindu.”
Rishi was inspired by his parents from an early age, who he said, inspired him to serve the community. In his video address on Twitter, he recalls how his family "gave him opportunities they could only dream of."
He added that he wants "everyone in this country (UK) to have the same opportunities."
Met Wife Akshata in California
Rishi met his wife, Akshata Murthy, in California while studying for an MBA at Stanford University. Akshata, who is the daughter of Indian billionaire and Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy, is the director of venture capital firm Catamaran UK.
"If I achieved a tenth of what my father-in-law achieved in his life, I'd be a happy person. I'm really proud of what he's achieved," Sunak told The Sun newspaper.
The couple got married in 2009 in Bengaluru and have two daughters, Anoushka and Krishna, who keep them "busy and entertained."
Recently, Akshata Murthy's non-domicile status stirred up a controversy. According to one report, Akshata Murthy avoids paying up to £20 million in tax because her non-dom status makes it legal for her to not pay the 39.35 percent tax applied to dividend payouts for resident taxpayers in the UK's highest income tax bracket.
Sunak defended his wife saying, "She had this well before we met, before she moved to this country."
"She's a private citizen, and of course, I support my wife's choices. She's not her husband's possession," he added.
(With inputs from Business Standard and The Sun.)