Indian-Origin persons who made their imprints in governance & politics
Source :NewsBharati   Date :11-Sep-2018

(Clockwise from top left) Bharrat Jagdeo, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Cheddi Jagan, Mahathir Mohamad, Leo Varadkar, Basdeo Panday

India has a long history of migration. More than a century ago, large numbers of Indian migrants – many of them were forced to move as plantation labourers - settled in Africa, the Caribbean and South Asian Nations and Pacific countries like Fiji and New Zealand. Some of the top destinations of Indian migrants in more recent decades include Persian Gulf countries, the USA, Canada and the European nations.

Globally Hindus account for 15-16% of the total world population with India, Nepal and Mauritius having the majority Hindu population. Most Hindus are found in the Asian countries besides a sizeable population in other countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA. Among the Asian nations, Indonesia (Bali 84% Hindus), Nepal (81%), Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia are the major lands where Hindus have significant presence.

According to 2010 statistics 24.2 million Hindus lived in Nepal, and 12.7 million in Bangladesh making them the countries with largest Hindu population besides Bharat. The only countries outside the Asia-Pacific region that ranked among the top 10 largest Hindu populations as of 2010 were the United States and the United Kingdom.

Table: List of nations with Hindu population by Percentage:-


Name of the Country

Hindu Population (in %)























Trinidad & Tobago



United Arab Emirates



Sri Lanka
























New Zealand












Former Prime Minister of India the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee in one of his famous poems “Hindu Tan Man…” depicts the contribution of Hindu community to the world and humanity in enriching their life standards with value addition. The Hindus who were forced to migrate to various countries during the British colonial rule have proved how Vajpayee was correct.

Ethnic Indian communities, especially those in the African countries of Nairobi, Uganda, South Africa, the Caribbean, Fiji, United States, the United Kingdom, and South Asian nations have become known for their economic success and generally peaceful integration. Some of them have even been major contributors in the development and progress of the political and administrative systems of these countries.

The latest example is of J Y Pillai, who was appointed acting president of Singapore on September1, 2017. This 83-year-old Indian Origin civil servant took over the duties every time as the acting president went on a holiday or business trip overseas.Pillai, however, is only the latest Indian-origin person to take over as the head of state.

Prominent among the list of such persons of Indian Origin who occupied the highest offices of their respective countries are Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal, Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister of Ireland, Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius, Moses Nagamootoo, Prime Minister of Guyana, Halimah Yacob, President of Singapore and many others.

Mauritius, Guyana, Caribbean, Suriname, and West Indies are some of the countries where Hindus, whose forefathers had migrated as contract labourers to work in plantations during the British rule and who by dint of their hard work acquired a respectable position in these societies, today rose to the highest positions of either Prime Ministers or Presidents.

The names of Seewoosagur Ramgulam, Abdool Razack Mohamed, Sookdeo Bissoondoyal who were the founding fathers of independent Mauritius, Anerood Jugnauth, who served as President of Mauritius from 2003 to 2012, Cheddi Jagan former President of Guyana, former PM Bharat Jagdeo, former Commonwealth Secretary General Sridath Ramphal and incumbent PM Moses Nagamootoo, in Malaysia, Tun V T Sambanathan, one of the founding fathers of independent Malaya, John Thivy founding president of Malayan Indian Congress, Mahathir Mohammad, the incumbent President, in Singapore S R Nathan President of Republic of Singapore, S Rajarathna, Dy PM, Foreign Affairs Minister S Jayakumar, Dy PM, Law Minister and 17 others; in South Africa Radhakrishna Padayachi, Deputy Minister for Communication, in Suriname Ashwin Adhin Vice President since 2015, Jagernath Lachmon former speaker, Lachmipersad Frederick Ramdat Misier ex-acting president from 1982 to 88, Ramsevak Shankar, former president 1988 to 90, in Switzerland Nik Gugger, adopted from Karnataka became the first Indian-origin member of Swiss Parliament, in Trinidad & Tobago Basdeo Panday, Trade Union leader and former Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, former Prime Minister, in Tanzania 16 politicians of Indian origin, in the United Kingdom 15 politicians who served as MPs, Ministers, etc., in the USA 38 prominent persons including Swati Dandekar, Nikki Nimrata Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Kamala Harris, Satish Hiremath, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, former Republican Governor of Louisiana, and many others.

Here an attempt is made to introduce some of the prominent Indian-Origin politicians who served or serving as heads of their respective states. Some of them like Ashwin Adhin, Vice President of Suriname have participated in the second World Hindu Congress currently going on in Chicago to commemorate the 125 years of Swami Vivekananda’s historic address to the World Parliament of Religions in 1863 at the same place.

Antonia Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal was born to parents who belonged to Goa and migrated to Lisbon. His relatives still live in Margo, Goa


Prime Minister Antonia Costa with Indian PM Narendra Modi
Costa graduated with a law degree from the University of Lisbon, and first entered politics in the 1980s where he was elected as a socialist deputy to municipal council. He practised law for a brief period of time before joining politics full time. He was the Socialist Party’s candidate for prime minister in the 2015 elections. He assumed office on Nov. 26, 2015.

Costa’s term has seen a return to economic growth in the country after nearly a decade of stagnation. The popularity of the Socialist Party has also seen a rise in his term.

Ireland’s incumbent Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was born to Ashok Varadkar and his Irish wife Miriam. Ashok Varadkar was born in Mumbai and later moved to England as practising medical doctor. His mother Mirian was a nurse. Leo followed his father into medicine.

He became a councillor at the age of 24, and was elected to Irish parliament in 2007. In 2011, Varadkar was appointed minister for transport, tourism and sport, and then health minister once the Fine Gael party came to power. He came out of the closet as a homosexual in 2015. A few months after his disclosure, Ireland voted in a referendum to legalise same-sex marriage.

The third president of Singapore CV Devan Nair (1981 to 1985) was born on August 5, 1923 to a rubber plantation clerk who hailed from Thalassery in Kerala. His family migrated to Singapore when he was 10 years old.

Nair’s disdain for colonialism was seen right from his childhood where he changed the lyrics of Rule Britannia to an anti-British one in a school choir performance before the British guest of honour. His entry into politics started when he joined as a member of the communist Anti-British League. He was detained by the British in 1951 for anti-colonial activities and was released when Lee Kuan Yew’s People’s Action Party, which he subsequently joined, won the elections in 1959. He then became the Minister of Education.

Nair entered the Singapore Parliament in 1979. He served as president from Oct. 23, 1981 to March 27, 1985.

Cheddi Jagan has been one of the Caribbean’s most contentious political leaders. The Indian-origin firebrand leader is credited with leading Guyana to Independence, and is often called ‘Father of the Nation’.

Jagan was born on March 22, 1918. His grandparents had migrated from India as indentured labourers at a sugarcane plantation. Along with his wife, Jagan founded the People’s Progressive Party, which was the first modern political organisation in the British colony.

When he was elected to the prime minister’s post of the small country, the United States engineered his ouster because of his pro-Soviet Marxist-Leninist politics. He served as an opposition for nearly 30 years. He returned to power as president in 1992 and maintained cordial relationship with the United States after the end of the Cold War. He died on March 6, 1997.

Bharat Jagdeo served as President of Guyana from 1999 to 2011. Time Magazine named him as ‘environmental hero’. Born on January 23, 1964 he had his Masters degree in Economics from Moscow in 1990 and joined the People’s Progressive Party of Chhedi Jagan. He worked as economist in the State Planning Secretariat after his return from Moscow.

When the People’s Progressive Party won the election in 1992, Jagdeo was a special advisor to the finance minister. Following Jagan’s death, and after his wife Janet Jagan stepped down as the president after tenure of two years, Jagdeo became the president of the party. He became the president of the country on August 11, 1999, and served for two terms till 2011.

Basdev Panday served as Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago from 1995 to 2001. Born on May 25, 1933 to Indian parents who migrated to that country from India he obtained degrees in law from Lincoln’s Inn, economics from London University and in drama from the London School of Dramatic Arts. He was an actor and acted in movies like Nine Hours to Rama (1963), Man in the Middle (1964) and Brigand of Kandahar (1865) while he was in London.

In 1966 he entered politics and joined the Workers’ and Farmers’ Party. He became president general of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union in 1973. Until he was appointed as the prime minister in Nov. 1995, he continued to serve that position.

Kamla Persad Bissessar, born on April 22, 1952, in a Brahmin family in Trinidad she served as Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago from 2010 to 2015 and was the first woman to hold the office of Prime Minister in that country. Her family traces their lineage to Bhelpur in India. She obtained a diploma in education and law, and executive Masters in Business Administration from Arthur Lock Jack Graduate School of Business, Trinidad.

She first became a teacher, and then entered politics in 1987. In 1995, she became the Member of Parliament for Siparia, serving as Attorney General, Minister of Legal Affairs, and Minister of Education between 1995 and 2001. In 2006, Persad-Bissessar was appointed the leader of Opposition, and became the first woman to hold that position in the country. On May 26, 2010, she created history once again by becoming the first woman to hold the office of the prime minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.


Former Prime Minister of Fiji Mahendra Pal Chaudhry 
Mahendra Pal Chaudhry is the leader and founder member of Fiji’s Labour Party. He rose to the position of the prime minister of Fiji in 1999, becoming the first Indo-Fijian to hold the position. He is especially lauded for promoting Indian values, culture and tradition abroad.

Chaudhry’s ancestral ties can be traced to the Bahu Jamalpur village in Haryana. His paternal grandfather arrived in Fiji in 1902 as an indentured labour to work on Fiji’s plantation. However, he refused to work in plantations and was employed as a store manager until he started his own business.

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who holds the distinction of being the longest serving prime minister of Malaysia, has been a prominent figure in the country for decades. Born on July 10, 1925, Mohamad was raised in Alor Setar, British Malaya. His grandfather was brought to Malaya from Kerala by the British East India Company to teach English at the Kedah Royal Palace. Despite his low socio-economic background, Mohamad became a doctor, and became active in politics by entering the United Malay National Organisation.

Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad is currently serving as the Prime Minister of Malaysia for the second time. He is the chairman of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, as well as a member of the Parliament of Malaysia for the Langkawi constituency in Kedah

Anerood Jugnauth served both as Prime Minister and President of Mauritius for several years. Born in a traditional Hindu Ahir family in La Caverne, Vacos Phoenix, he studied law in the United Kingdom. He got elected in 1963 as a candidate of Independent Forwarad Block.


Anerood Jugnauth former President of Mauritius
He came to power in 1982 as the Prime Minister. His grandfather had migrated to Mauritius from India in the 1850s, also served as president during 2003-2008 and 2008-2012. In 2014, he was elected to his sixth term as prime minister, from which he stepped down earlier this year to make way for his son, Pravind.

Ramsewak Shankar is a Surinamese politician who served as the 4th president of the South American country from 1988 to 1990. His government was overthrown in a military coup led by Desi Bouterse. Shankar, who was born on Nov. 6, 1937, studied in the Netherlands and got active in the Progressive Reform Party once he returned to Suriname.

Indians in US Politics: Five Indian Americans made their mark in Congressional politics in the US one of th4em becoming the first to be elected to the Senate and four others win seats in the House of Representatives.

 Kamala Harris was elected from California to the Senate defeating fellow-Democrat Loretta Sanchez. 

The victory of Kamala Harris is significant because senators are elected by the entire electorate in their states and California is the most populous state in the nation with 18 million voters.

The 52-year-old Harris, who traces her family roots to Chennai, is a lawyer by profession and was twice elected Attorney General in 2010 and 2014.

PramilaJayapal from Washington, Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois and Ro Khanna from California and Ami Bera, who was re-elected from California, got the seat in the House of Representatives.

TulsiGabbard, who is a Hindu although not of Indian descent, was re-elected to the House from Hawaii.

Among others Ami Bera is a democrat, Jayapal is financial analyst, Krishnamoorthi served as economic advisor to former President Barack Obama, and also as Illinois State Deputy Treasurer and Assistant Attorney General on special assignment to fight corruption.

Ro Khanna is a former Federal Deputy Assistant Commerce Secretary, Kamala Harris is counted as an African American as her father is a Jamaican. She was raised by her mother Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer specialist from Chennai giving her equal claim to Indian heritage.

The first Indian elected to Congress is Dalip Singh Saund, who won from California in 1956.