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Blair finds backing in ‘Little Ludhiana’

London, March 23: Veteran Indian-born Labour MP Piara Singh Khabra, who has come out for the Iraq war, said today that he could hardly be accused of ingratiating himself with Tony Blair in the hope the Prime Minister would give him a job “because of my age”.

Khabra, MP for Ealing Southall, in west London, who has twice voted in the House of Commons in favour of military action, is 78. “You know my record,” said Khabra, who is often derided for allegedly clinging on as MP in a safe Labour seat. “I am a Sikh and I have been against Khalistanis.”

This is true enough. Now, Khabra, whose constituency has one of the highest concentrations of Punjabis in the country — in fact, it is called “Little Ludhiana” — has twice supported Blair when Labour rebels voted against the war in the Commons.

So far, Khabra, has had little trouble from his constituents, a high proportion of them of Indian origin. His Muslim constituents, he told The Telegraph today, have also not protested.

“They are from many countries — we have Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, I have Kurds — and they mostly come to me for asylum or immigration issues,” he said.

As a member of the House of Commons select committee on international development — the ministry headed by “I shall resign, no I won’t” Clare Short — Khabra expects to travel widely and be involved in discussions about the reconstruction of Iraq.

Khabra also praised the stance taken by the Indian government. “It has not gone overboard in criticising the Americans. But President Musharraf is playing a dangerous game.”

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