Just a few days before the 2015 UK general election, a leaflet suddenly appeared in the London constituency of Harrow East, accusing Labour candidate Uma Kumaran of branding British Hindus as “casteists”. It called on them to support the Conservatives.
Kumaran, a Hindu herself, was “appalled that my faith is being used against me” and slammed the leaflets as “gutter politics”. They were produced by an outfit called Dharma Sewa Purvapaksha, registered in Rugby, Warwickshire. Its founder, Mukesh Naker, acknowledged he was a Conservative Party member and was angry that the Labour Party wanted to outlaw discrimination on the basis of caste.
Now Naker is back. In late November, the Electoral Commission approved a third-party campaigning organisation called Operation Dharmic Vote: Naker is its ‘responsible person’ and it has a page on the Dharma Sewa Purvapaksha website. ‘Dharmic’ refers to religions that originated in India: Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. It excludes Christianity and Islam even though they have been in the subcontinent for centuries.
openDemocracy has been sent a leaflet distributed by ODV in Leicester during the current election campaign. It asks voters whether they want amrut (‘nectar’ in Gujarati) or “poison” – implying the Labour candidate, Claudia Webbe. One page is headed: “3 good reasons why you should vote for Conservative candidate Bhupen Dave and NOT Labour.”
Naker has known and worked with Dave for years, a source tells me. But the ODV leaflet claims it is not party political.
openDemocracy has also learnt that the National Council of Hindu Temples (UK) (NCHTUK), arguably Britain’s largest Hindu body, has suspended its general secretary, Satish Sharma.
openDemocracy revealed two weeks ago that Sharma had been personally advocating for the Conservatives on social media in recent weeks.
Two trustees of the charity – one of them its president, Madhu Shastri – have confirmed Sharma’s suspension, without explaining what prompted it. The Charity Commission has also commented on Sharma’s activities. It told openDemocracy:Print