Regulator considers complaint that Hindu charity showed bias towards Conservative Party

A complaint to the Charity Commission says a letter sent to members of the National Council of Hindu Temples by its general secretary had a 'clear bias' towards the party

NCHT headquarters
NCHT headquarters

The Charity Commission has said that it will urgently contact the National Council of Hindu Temples after receiving a complaint that a letter sent to members of the charity breached rules on political neutrality by implying that Hindus should vote Conservative.

The complaint, seen by Third Sector, says the letter contains a "clear bias towards the Conservative Party" and calls the charity’s independence into question.

The letter from Satish Sharma, the charity’s general secretary, which was sent to NCHT members, details a visit on Saturday by Prime Minister Theresa May to the Hindu temple in Neasden, north-west London, and urges British Hindus to vote in the forthcoming election.

The letter does not specifically say which party to vote for but says that whether British Hindus vote for May, "whose party has elevated Indian origin parliamentarians to Cabinet and ministerial positions", or for Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, who snubbed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary address "and whose grandees are determined to foist caste labels upon British Hindus, it is critical that British Hindus do vote".

Charity Commission guidance says that charities are allowed to put forward views on political subjects, but they must not encourage support for any particular party or candidates.

The letter adds that Manoj Ladwa, the co-founder of Labour Friends of India, last week declared that "Labour has lost its way to the point that the relationship between Labour and the British Indian community often feels adversarial".

It says: "It is clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s outright refusal to even discuss the impact of Labour’s Hinduodic 'caste proliferation' agenda has alienated formerly loyal Hindu voters in droves, whereas the Conservative Party, which has demonstrated that it is listening to British Hindus, may well reap the rewards of this strengthening engagement.

"If the warmth and affection with which the British Hindus welcomed the Prime Minister at the Neasden Mandir translates into support on Thursday, the move away from Labour towards the Conservatives may well become more than a short-term blip and more of a paradigm shift," the letter says.

The complainant to the Charity Commission notes that it is not the first time a complaint along these lines has been considered by the regulator.

In the run-up to the 2015 election, a letter from Sharma that said "British Hindus, Sikhs and Jains voting for Labour is now like turkeys voting for Christmas" was removed from the charity’s website after the commission was alerted to it.

Sharma told Third Sector this morning that the charity had not had any communication from the commission about the latest letter and he had no further comment to make on the matter at this time.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission confirmed that the regulator had been made aware of concerns about the NCHT and political activity. 

"Charities must not encourage support for a particular political party or candidate," she said. 

"The commission has previously asked the charity to refrain from making statements that could lead to the charity’s political neutrality being questioned and we are contacting the charity as a matter of urgency regarding these current concerns."

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