Shivani Raja breaks Labour's 37-year hold in Leicester East

Subhasini Naicker Wednesday 10th July 2024 06:46 EDT

Shivani Raja, a 29-year-old businesswoman of Gujarati origin, has secured the Leicester East seat for the Conservative Party, breaking the Labour Party's 37-year stronghold in the constituency. She was the only Tory candidate to take a seat from Labour in the UK general election.

Shivani Raja secured 14,526 votes, defeating prominent competitors Rajesh Agarwal, Claudia Webbe, and Keith Vaz. Rajesh Agarwal, the former Deputy Mayor of London, garnered 10,100 votes. The incumbent politician, Claudia Webbe, received 5,532 votes, while Keith Vaz obtained 3,681 votes, placing them fourth and fifth, respectively.

Originally from Diu, Gujarat, Shivani actively engaged British Indian voters, particularly those from Diu and Gujarat, during her campaign. Her parents immigrated from India to Kenya and later settled in Leicester in the late 1970s. Shivani studied Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Science at De Montfort University and has built a successful career with major cosmetic brands in England.

In her victory speech, Shivani Raja attributed her win to voters feeling disillusioned and drawn to her local roots. She criticised former MPs for failing to support the community during crucial times, such as the Leicester riots, and for unjustly blaming Hindus. Her election signifies a shift in local sentiment and a desire for leadership that genuinely prioritises community interests over political agendas.

Community celebrates Shivani’s win in Leicester East

Founder of Jain Animal Sanctuary, NItin Mehta MBE said, “It is a matter of great satisfaction that young Shivani was backed by a united Gujarati community. It was a matter of shame that due to deep rooted prejudices of the Labour Party that it failed to select a Gujarati speaking candidate even after Keith Vaz had to resign after a scandal. The Conservatives under the leadership of Rishi Sunak had the decency to select a Gujarati candidate. The Gujarati community which traditionally voted Labour realised that they should come together and vote for Shivani. And what a result we had. Shivani defeated the Labour candidate as well as Keith Vaz. While the Conservatives did badly nationally, in Leicester East they reversed the trend and won a seat. The lesson is clear. The Indian community must become politically active and unite. Right at this time there will be many individuals and groups in Leicester who will think they have been hit by an earthquake!”

Vinod Kotecha, Ex-Chief Executive Officer of the Confederation of Indian Organisations (UK) said, “It's fantastic news, particularly for women and people of Indian origin, to have Shivani Raja, the first Gujarati from the Lohana community, elected as Member of Parliament (MP). Her victory is a testament to the hard work of volunteers who tirelessly supported her campaign. Leicester East, where a significant Indian population resides, overwhelmingly backed her candidacy. Key issues such as employment, education, and the rising cost of living need urgent attention. Supporting those on low wages to ensure they receive their entitled benefits is crucial. As a local from Leicester, Shivani intimately understands these pressing concerns and is well-positioned to represent her constituents effectively. She brings youth, enthusiasm, and a track record of organising impactful community events to her role as MP. The electorate's shift away from the Labour Party, particularly due to dissatisfaction with Keith Vaz and Claudia Webb, indicates a desire for change that Shivani embodies at this opportune moment. Her fresh perspective and dedication are poised to make a significant impact, and I hope she receives robust support from the community in her new role.”

Retired retail sector worker, Mukund Samani said, "I was confident that Shivani would win the Leicester East seat, despite the odds. In the previous election, the Conservative Party wasn't close to winning here, but this time they succeeded. Even though the Labour Party won nationwide by 34%, Shivani Raja secured victory with 31% in what has historically been a Labour stronghold. Leicester East has always been dominated by Labour; in the early 80s, RV Ganatra failed to secure a Labour seat and ran as an independent, which he ultimately lost the seat. Shivani's campaign was bolstered by community leaders and her personal touch resonated with voters—she visited every household in the constituency. Her warm demeanour and dedication played a crucial role in securing this unexpected victory."

Community leader, Bharti Acharya said, “Shivani Raja, as a young woman and a local resident, has garnered widespread community support to undertake remarkable initiatives. Despite her youth, we have full confidence in her ability to represent Leicester comprehensively. Over the years, our communities have faced numerous disparities and felt unheard, especially during the unrest in Leicester East a couple of years ago, where the Hindu community was unfairly blamed. They have not received the grants and support they deserve, despite steadfastly supporting the Labour Party for so long in hopes of reciprocal support. This sense of betrayal motivated a significant shift towards a Conservative representative who understands our needs and concerns. It's a substantial change from Labour to Conservative, driven by personal credibility. Though it's regrettable that Rishi Sunak isn't here, his initial support for Shivani was commendable. Despite inheriting a challenging situation as Prime Minister after the Conservatives' missteps, his efforts in a short time are noteworthy. As Indians, we are immensely proud of both Shivani Raja and Rishi Sunak.”

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