Mayor Ghulati

by | Dec 1, 2023

London is a very special place. As a city, it is splendid, and historical, and continues to be the financial hub of the modern world, though it is no more the epicenter of global order. Indians have been living in London, and most of the modern thinkers have studied in the great universities of Cambridge and Oxford. I have been to London three times, twice in the late 1990s and then in 2016. Having been to other great world cities like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing, and so on, I have no doubt of putting London at the top.

Why should I say that? Before answering that let me put up what makes a city great. Connectivity, tolerance, and diversity make a city great. That is why with all its problems, Kolkata remains the greatest Indian city and not Mumbai or Delhi or Chennai. Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Pune are glorified contentment towns and have never been cities. 

 Once in 2001, I was sitting with my Chinese host in Beijing, who proudly called Beijing the best city on earth. When I sought the logic behind his ranking, he wisely said that a barber, bakery, school, doctor, and tailor must always be within walking distance for everyone, which is there in Beijing, and nowhere else. He had a point, but Beijing has since changed, and London remains that way even now.

 Accounting for factors including airport connectivity, the number of parks, the concentration of restaurants and nightlife spots, as well as an analysis of educational attainment and GDP, London scores highly. Its abundance of theatres and museums is the hallmark of a refined culture. Which great artist of the world has not performed at Albert’s Hall, including our own Lata Mangeshkar? Canary Wharf remains the heart of international finance. Plus, the opening of the new Elizabeth Line has given London’s transport network, already efficient, another jewel in its crown.

It was a great joy to see Mr Tarun Ghulati coming to my house. A handsome man with a baritone voice and clear eyes behind which his pious soul can be felt, he came with a common friend Ravi Tangirala, who heads the American insurance major MassMutual in India and himself has strong ties with London. Soon, I came to know that Mr Ghulati had made up his mind to contest the 2024 Mayoral elections for London. Wow! I will perhaps never go to London again and see no apparent reason for the joy that I felt when I heard this. But, I was truly happy. 

Being an established biographer by now, I tend to see every life as a story, where no one else but the storyteller himself is the hero. Mr Ghulati was born in Delhi in a family of educated people and brought up in the aristocratic society of Lutyens’ Delhi. His father, Mr S.P. Ghulati held a high position in the government. Mr Ghulati took up a career in investment banking and working for Citibank and HSBC landed in London in 2002. Now a British citizen, he lives there, no longer feels like an outsider, and has a zeal to set things right in his city, that is London. 

 Indians have been an integral part of London society. There is no major Indian rich, who does not own a property in London. The real education seekers still go to study in British universities, and the National Health Service is still considered a benchmark of healthcare delivery to people in India. All stars amongst Indian doctors are members of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. And if you can walk around in any premier Indian hospital, you can read FRCP, and FRCS written amongst the qualification on the nameplates outside their cabins. 

So, which party would he be contesting from – Labour or Conservatives – I asked Mr Ghulati. He surprised me by saying that he would be contesting as an independent candidate. Reading my surprise quickly, he sharply lit up to give me a short political lesson. There is big confusion among the young Londoners about what liberal might mean in English and what it might mean in French. And who could be still called a conservative anyway? It is not very uncommon for youngsters to ask if a political opinion is coming from the left, right, or somewhere in between the two poles. And when do we call a stand as the center?

 In modern-day London, where people of every nationality in the world live as bonafide citizens, there is no clear political identity. And Mr Ghulati sees this confusion not as a crisis but as an opportunity. What London needs is a good civic system, which may be Liberal or Conservative, that is not the issue, but it must be efficient and must deliver. And above all, it must be humane. The streets are crowded with the poor and the homeless. These are not migrants. These are locals, victimized by the silos thinking of political rivals, which ends up excluding them. 

Finding it eventually impossible to carve out an identity that was distinct from that of the two rival thought streams, Mr Ghulati has decided to contest as an independent. And precisely what does he mean by an independent? Politics the world over stands polarized. People are living in ideological silos. But when it comes to business, what is convenient and popular is done by all leaders. Mr Ghulati can either contest the election as an independent or not try. But, he has decided to try. 

The duties of the mayor of London include planning, housing, transportation, economic development, policing, and the arts and culture as well as the environment. It is a hell of a lot of work with a budget of around £21 billion per year. The incumbent mayor Mr Sadiq Khan announced in January 2022 that he would seek election to a third term as the mayor of London. Ms. Susan Hall will be the Conservative candidate. There are many other aspirants and Mr Ghulati is aware that he will be seen as a “Me too”.

Awareness is the biggest power of a human and the foundation stone of any society. Those people who are aware of the purpose of their lives eventually succeed, overcoming all disadvantages and circumventing all hurdles no matter how insurmountable they must appear in the beginning. So, when I had seen off Mr Ghulati, I felt as if I was seeing off the new mayor of London. It does not matter whether he gets elected; what matters is that he feels for the city he lives in and the people who are short-changed by the politics of vested interests. Had I been living in London, I would have gone out and voted for him for sure!

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13 Comments

  1. India possesses the necessary components to be a top exporter of talent: a large youth population and excellent higher education. Indians’ fluency in English is also beneficial. India’s population is expected to grow over the next several decades, and more of its citizens will travel abroad in search of better employment opportunities and to avoid the intense heat. Immigration laws in wealthy nations screen out graduates for positions in fields like computer technology and medical, which have high labor demand. It makes sense that individuals who have been born in India for some time now account for more than two thirds of the country’s h-1b visas, which are granted to highly qualified professionals in “speciality occupations” like computer scientists. So, why not Indians assert themselves in their adopted countries! The bright examples of US Vice President Kamala Haris and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are like beacons of the modern times.

  2. Incredibly fascinating! The London Assembly and Mayoral elections of 2024 are scheduled on Thursday, May 2, 2024. A 21 billion pound budget is a substantial sum of money. As of right now, there are more than 1.8 million British Indians living in the United Kingdom, making them the largest visible ethnic minority group. Shopkeepers, doctors, attorneys, engineers, professors, military personnel, legislators, merchants, social workers, and philanthropists are just a few of the many professions in which British Indians are represented in the UK. It is safe to assume that without the contribution made by the British Indian population, the UK would be a poorer nation. Imagine a UK without the more than 600 Indian businesses that have invested £10 billion there. So Mayor Ghulati, why not?

  3. Indians living overseas have just lately started to land important jobs. Indian-born executives run Adobe, Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM, and the parent company of Google. After leading MasterCard for more than ten years, Ajay Banga, a native of Pune in western India, was selected last month to head the World Bank. Indians also hold the position of dean at three of the top five business schools, including Harvard Business School. I am aware that the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, is one of the 19 members of the British House of Commons who are of Indian descent. Why not make Mayor Ghulati the head of London?

  4. A delightful read, Prof Tiwariji !

    Your concept of awareness is thought provoking !!

  5. London transforming like the theory of evolution. With time and good leadership taking the risk to make meaningful change, think abut how the city will look like in a couple of decades to come! As was once said, the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity, is daring to dare. All the best Mr Ghulati.

  6. I see a humanist in Mr Gulati. It is so refreshing in a polarised world. Our best wishes are with him. I hope voting Londoners see him as their candidate for this post.

  7. Dear Sir, The power of the Indian diaspora is becoming more visible at the highest levels of government and business. A decade ago, there were just 11 chief executives of Indian heritage at S&P 500 businesses; today, there are 25. That number is almost certain to climb higher given the significant number of executives of Indian descent holding other senior positions at these organizations. More than any other nation, India leads the world in inward remittances, which now total over $100 billion and account for over 3% of GDP. Additionally, foreign Indians who have connections, language proficiency, and expertise promote cross-border investment and trade. Therefore, it is encouraging to see Mr. Ghulati’s ambition to become Mayor of London. Let’s applaud him.

  8. Sir, Every leader must understand that people, especially ordinary people everywhere, want better lives. I met Mr. Ghulati while he was in Delhi recently. I am sure by attending to the aspirations of the poor of London, Mr. Ghulati will do a great service. Who will win the election I can’t say as I have never been to London. But I am sure that every good and brave work in this world is supported by the power that in essence runs this world.

  9. Fantastic read about cities and polity. Enjoyed reading it. And all the best to Mr Ghulati. May be we see a new London next time.

  10. Thank you Sir for sharing the inspirational story of Mr.Ghulati. I found myself in the similar position at present in Sydney, Australia, struggling to get my PR( Permanent Residential ) status of this great country, now I am on a bridge PR visa and expecting my final PR visa letter anytime this month. After 1 year I will be applying for the citizenship of Australia and would like to give my additional contribution in the development of this country as a politician by fighting elections in near future.

    My vision is to uplift good workforce relationships between India and Australia by giving opportunities to the talented people of India to come and contribute to the progress of both countries. I believe I shall be able to contribute something good for the people of both countries. With all your blessings, I feel I am on the right path. Let’s see how far I will reach in my vision.

  11. “……writer is the hero himself”….watta an expression.
    But like heroes are groomed….so you do to the subject.
    Problem with expat Indians is that most of the time they dont even vote for one of their own. A racist criminal was being supported in last elections in ….you know where.

  12. Interesting indeed.
    Here is somebody who wants to have an all round development rather than govern as per the ideology of any party.
    London, as is any city in the world should be liveable by all and should not be an eyesore.
    I join you in wishing him the very best not only becoming a mayor, but in making London liveable by all.
    Best wishes to all as we step into the winter of 2023.

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