London, Nov. 15: Boris is ready for India but is India ready for Boris?
“My message to India when we go there next week is very, very simple — it’s London loves India,” he told Indian journalists yesterday.
India rising has had many a VVIP visitor in recent years but probably no one quite like Boris Johnson, who won a second term as mayor of London in a closely fought election in May this year with the help of Indian voters.
He is now so famous that he no longer needs to be identified in Britain by his surname.
Well known for clowning around, who knows he may be able to make even Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi fall about laughing.
But people who underestimate him do so at their peril. An exact contemporary of David Cameron, he was a King’s Scholar at Eton College and went on to Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Literae Humaniores (Classics) as a Brackenbury scholar. He was also president of the Oxford Union.
As a journalist, he has been editor of The Spectator and still continues to write a weekly column for The Daily Telegraph.
Last year he found time to bring out his latest book, Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World — “available from all good outlets”.
After successful management of the Olympics and Paralympics, the former Tory MP has benefited from the “Boris bounce” to the extent opinion polls routinely show him as the most popular politician in the country.
Kamal Nath, the urban development minister, came away impressed after meeting Boris a few days ago ahead of the latter’s week-long trip to Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai starting on November 25.
Boris has announced that in his second term as mayor, he is going to promote business opportunities in London by undertaking trips to the Bric countries — starting with India.
He repeated: “London loves India and we want to make sure that we build an ever closer relationship and that we stimulate greater trade and co-operation.”
There are those who believe Boris is “completely Bonkers” but among the things he thinks London can export are folding Brompton bicycles (the mayor, who comes to work on his bike, never uses his official limousine), mosquito repellent and “chocolate cake”.
Of course, Boris is not only heading a business delegation, he is coming as a sort of Jamai Babu — “I have Indian relatives by marriage”.
His wife, Marina, is the daughter of the late BBC correspondent in Delhi, Sir Charles Wheeler, and Dip Singh, who is Sikh.
“Marina’s family is Indian; they live in Mumbai and in Delhi…. I have been quite a few times now at various family weddings — and greatly enjoy it. I have generally had a wonderful time in India.”