Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer of the United Kingdom through the Covid-19 pandemic till earlier this week, has put his hat in the ring for the contest to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. Sunak is the first person of Indian origin and the second South Asian to seek the leadership of the governing party in Britain, asking his party to make him prime minister.
The Sunak-led U.K. Treasury intervened heavily as the coronavirus pandemic brought economic activity to a halt. In an unprecedented measure, Sunak committed to the government paying 80% of the wages of staff that were kept on the rolls by employers. While antithetical to the legacy of a Conservative Party that just three decades previously advocated Thatcherite small-government, those measures brought Rishi Sunak publicity as the most popular British politician since Tony Blair.
The high ratings declined in the second and third years of the pandemic. Sections of the British press profiled Sunak’s journey before politics — professional and personal—a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, following education at the universities of Oxford in the United Kingdom and Stanford in the United States, married to Infosys co-founder billionaire NR Narayana Murthy’s daughter Akshata Murty. In early 2022, Murty’s then non-domicile tax status in the United Kingdom led to unfavourable coverage about the dividend income from her shareholding in Infosys. The couple subsequently moved out of the living quarters above No. 10 Downing Street. While that address is popularly identified as the British Prime Minister’s ‘residence’, Sunak and Murty stayed at the apartment over No 10, as Boris Johnson followed the trend of his predecessors Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Theresa May and David Cameron in residing at the larger apartment over No. 11.
Along with its public spending measures, the British government had also enforced rigorous lockdowns on social activity in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was found to have violated those rules in gatherings dubbed ‘partygate’, that triggered investigations by the police and the bureaucracy, as well as a months-long barrage of questions in parliament.
Sunak resigned as chancellor on July 5, 2022, citing disagreements with Johnson on economic policy. That resignation, minutes after that of Health Secretary Sajid Javid, set into motion a two-day period that saw an exit from the government by over 50 members.
Following his resignation, Sunak has been ranked as among the most-preferred choices among MPs as party leader, in a multi-round process that would anoint the next prime minister of Great Britain.