From being a runner-up to becoming UK’s first Indian-origin Prime Minister within just two months, Rishi Sunak has had a glittering resume from his childhood to his political career. Besides having degrees from the University of Oxford and Stanford University and a stint at the Goldman Sachs investment bank, Sunak has served as the UK Finance Minister and was praised for his Covid-19 economic rescue package.
During the Covid pandemic, Sunak’s image came to be that of a superslick, social-media savvy, immaculately dressed, handsome, but down-to-earth politician. “Dishy Rishi”, as people called him on social media, was named “Britain’s sexiest MP” in 2020. However, he became embroiled in a slew of controversies earlier this year.
Sunal, one of the wealthiest British politicians, is married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of NR Narayana Murthy, co-founder of the IT company Infosys. The couple, who tied the knot in 2009, has two daughters, Anoushka and Krishna.
Rishi Sunak: Childhood
Sunak was born in Southampton on May 12, 1980, into a family with immigrant roots. His parents Yashvir and Usha, both pharmacists, migrated to UK from East Africa and have roots in Punjab.
Sunak’s paternal grandparents came from a place called Gujranwala, now in Pakistan. However, they were forced to leave and cross the border due to communal riots and bloodshed in the 1930s.
Sunak completed his schooling from Winchester College, a private school that has produced at least six chancellors. He also worked as a waiter at an Indian restaurant in Southampton during his summer holidays. He then went to Oxford to study philosophy, politics and economics.
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After graduating from Oxford in 2001, Sunak became an analyst for Goldman Sachs and worked for the investment banking company until 2004. He then went on to study MBA at Stanford University, where he met his wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of Narayana Murthy.
After returning to the United Kingdom in 2006, Sunak worked for a couple of hedge funds — The Children’s Investment Fund Management (TCI) and Theleme Partners.
Rishi Sunak’s Political Career
Sunak was first elected MP from Richmond (Yorks) constituency in 2015 and re-elected in 2017 and 2019. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Conservative Party and supported calls for ‘Brexit’.
He then became a junior minister in Theresa May’s government and was made chief secretary to the Treasury by Boris Johnson in 2019 and promoted to the chancellor’s post in February 2020.
Sunak resigned as chancellor in July 2022 — a move that contributed to the downfall of Johnson as Tory leader and UK prime minister.
During his stint as chancellor, Sunak gained widespread praise for his Covid-19 economic rescue package, comprising an expensive jobs retention programme that averted mass unemployment in the country.
However, he faced criticism from some fractions for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households.
On several occasions, Sunak has openly declared himself as a “proud Hindu” and “thoroughly British”. Sunak has asserted that his religious and cultural heritage was “Indian” like his wife and “he is open about being a Hindu”. At an interview with a media channel, Sunak has revealed about his abstinence from beef on religious grounds and how he keeps a Ganesha idol on his desk.
Rishi Sunak Controversies
Despite Sunak garnering praise from several quarters, he has courted controversies on several occasions. Earlier this year, Sunak stirred a controversy after his wife Akshata Murthy allegedly avoided payment of taxes on her overseas income.
Sunak’s wife, as an Indian citizen and non-domiciled UK resident, claimed a tax status that allowed her to avoid paying British taxes on her overseas income, saving her as much as $24 million in taxes over a seven-and-a-half-year period.
Sunak also faced scrutiny for allegedly not giving up his US green card while serving in the British government.
Moreover, a video clip from a 2007 BBC documentary in which Sunak suggests he doesn’t have any “working-class friends” has also been criticised by UK residents.
Sunak’s image took a hit again after he was fined in April by the police for having been among the guests at a birthday party for Boris Johnson at his office in 2020 that was held in violation of the government’s Covid-19 rules. Sunak had claimed that his appearance at the party was “inadvertent” and he had appeared early for a meeting with the then prime minister.