Gujarat origin Priti Patel becomes Britain’s first Indian-origin Home Secretary

New Delhi: In a speech after being elected as the new prime minister of the United Kingdom (UK), Boris Johnson highlighted the importance of ‘Dude’ – meaning,”deliver, unite, defeat… energise”.

In order to fulfil all of those things— and more of what he has promised— newly elected Priti Patel, Britain’s first Indian-origin home secretary, will play a key role for Johnson. Patel took charge of her new role on July 24, after Johnson unveiled his new cabinet.

Patel’s appointment does not come as a surprise, since she has been at the forefront of the ‘Back Boris’ campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Patel is also an ardent Brexiteer, and had been one of the most vocal critics of former PM Theresa May’s Brexit strategy.

“I will do everything in my power to keep our country safe, our people secure, and also fight the scourge of crime that we see on our streets. I look forward to the challenges that now lie ahead,” Patel said, in reference to her new job at the helm of the UK Home Office.

A long-standing Eurosceptic, Patel had steered the “Vote Leave” campaign in the lead-up to the June 2016 referendum in favour of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU).

The 47-year-old was first elected as a Conservative MP for Witham in Essex in 2010 and gained prominence in the then David Cameron-led Tory government as his Indian Diaspora Champion.

She went on to be appointed to junior ministerial posts, treasury minister in 2014 and then employment minister after the 2015 general election, before May promoted her to the position of secretary of state in the Department for International Development (DfID) in 2016, until she was forced to quit the post in 2017.

According to a report by Guardian, Patel’s Gujarat-origin parents had moved to the UK from Uganda, just before the Idi Amin regime began to deport all Asians from the country and handing their businesses to the local population.

The report states that Patel’s appointment as the home secretary has raised concerns within rights groups in the UK for her views on some of the issues, including immigration and counter-terrorism, covered under her new brief.

“Priti Patel is a politician with a consistent record of voting against basic human rights protection. For her to be put in charge of the Home Office is extremely concerning,” Clare Collier, advocacy director at the human rights group Liberty, told the newspaper.

Patel had also attracted controversy in 2017 after it emerged that she had met, unofficially, with Israeli ministers, businessmen and lobbyists at least 14 times. Holding the international development secretary brief then in May’s cabinet, Patel had resigned after it was found that she had not disclosed any of these meetings to May.

Patel is also known to be an avid supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and had praised him for demonetisation, calling it a “right step to tackle the root causes of corruption”.

As a member of the UK Parliament’s influential Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), Patel was part of the team that recently released its damning report warning that the UK was falling behind in the race to engage with India at the end of a lengthy Global Britain and India parliamentary inquiry.

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