KOLKATA: Rohit K Dasgupta, 30, has become the first Bengali from India to be elected as councillor in the London Borough of Newham. An alumnus of St James’ School and Jadavpur University, Dasgupta had joined UK politics in 2009, when he shifted to London to pursue his masters in English.
Last year, Dasgupta had unsuccessfully contested as the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate for East Hampshire against the Theresa May government. This year, he won with 70% votes.
His parents — Mukut and Joyasree — are ecstatic. “My mother said my hard work paid off. My parents were up all night waiting for the results. They will have a celebration dinner,” Dasgupta said. After results, Dasgupta partied with all the Labour activists who contributed to his win.
Though he comes from a Left political tradition, none of Dasgupta’s parents have been involved in active politics. “I joined the Labour Party as I thought Gordon Brown was a fantastic leader and deserved to remain UK’s PM,” he explained. As for contemporary Indian politics, Dasgupta is against the “kind of Hindutva nationalism being espoused by the BJP”. “I was born in a secular country and to see that secularism being eroded makes me angry. I’m glad Bengal is one of the few states that has remained immune to Hindutva politics,” he said.
However, the recent Metro incident at Dum Dum — where his parents live — has left him ashamed. “Kolkata has been a bastion of liberal values compared to many other Indian cities. Moral policing is unacceptable. Showing affection should not be something we should be ashamed of or be censured for,” he said.
He will now he busy balancing his academic job at the Loughborough University and responsibilities as a councillor. Both jobs, he said, complement each other. As an elected representative, his priority is to expand “the equalities agenda of the council, repair and maintain all council homes and increase crime prevention”. Housing, he pointed out, is a big issue in Newham. “I’d like to see our council build more affordable homes for everyone,” he said.
Looking forward to strengthening the connection between Kolkata and London, he said, “Newham also has a sizeable number of Indian and Bangladeshi communities. There is opportunity for all kinds of cultural exchange with Kolkata and also learning good practices from each other.”