As the race to 10 Downing Street heats up, Sanjay Jagatia, Secretary General of the Hindu Council UK explains the importance of registering to vote and bring about change for the benefit of Britain’s Black and Ethnic Minority communities.
The Hindu Council UK has been chosen as the ‘lead’ Hindu group by the Election Commission for its Nationwide Campaign involving other activist groups to encourage voter registration among Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) voters.
The campaign was launched amid concerns about the number of people who are not currently on the electoral register. Campaigning bodies like Operation Black Vote (OBV) want to highlight the value of the BMW vote and how to register.
Those groups particularly under-represented on the voting register are young adults (BME) communities.
According to research by OBV, the BMW vote could help decide more than 160 parliamentary seats – a not insignificant number given that this year’s general election is set to become the most fractious in living memory.
The research suggests that in 168 marginal seats the BME electorate is larger than the majority by which the seat was won.
What does all this mean?
First and foremost it means that BME communities have greater political leverage than ever before to demand that Party bosses draw up policy plans to tackle persistent racial inequality, particularly in relation to employment, education, health and housing.
What is also interesting about this data is the shift of where BME political power lies.
In the past it was almost exclusively in urban, inner city areas which barely changed political hands. Today the BMW vote’s influence extends beyond areas such as Croydon, Harrow and Ealing to constituencies such as Corby, Northamptonshire; Rossendale and Darwin in Lancashire; but also outside urban areas, such as Corby, Rossendale & Darwin and Cheadle and Loughborough in Leicestershire.
We relish the challenge to inspire an often cynical electorate to engage as never before, and simultaneously to inform our political leaders that putting race equality back on the agenda is no longer an option but rather a question of their own political survival.
Research by the Electoral Commission shows that 76 per cent of people from BME backgrounds are currently registered to vote compared with nearly ninety percent of white voters.
To redress this imbalance, OBV has commissioned a specially converted coach to visit areas with high BME populations to encourage and enable people to register to vote. The Hindu Council UK is leading the drive to engage the Hindu Community with special posters on the bus which will be travelling around the country.
In addition, additional flyers and posters produced by the Election Commission have been sent to Hindu temples and other community organizations across the UK.
It is vital that all Hindus register to vote in order to have their say in the election on 7 May.
The right to vote has been hard-won and it is the duty of everyone in public life, including the government, to make sure that everyone who is eligible to vote is able to do so.