First India-born Parsi to enter House of Lords


August 30, 2006

Post by


London, July 23 (IANS)

India-born beer baron Karan Bilimoria will on Monday formally “take his seat” in the House of Lords, making him the first Parsi to enter the British Parliament’s upper house.

Bilimoria, the owner of Cobra beer, became Lord Bilimoria CBE, of Chelsea, after being granted peerage on June 16. He will now take his seat in the upper house as a “cross bencher” – that is, without any party affiliation.

“It’s a great privilege, and I am truly humbled,” Bilimoria, whose “NRI beer” Cobra is a staple at the thousands of Indian restaurants in Britain, told IANS in an interview.

As one of the 10 youngest members of the 714-member House of Lords, Bilimoria says he will focus on “entrepreneurship, enterprise, trade and investment” as well as the emerging India story.

“India’s importance will see a sustained increase in the decades to come,” says Lord Bilimoria, who is chair of the Indo-British Partnership Council and a member of the UK-India Round Table, chaired by Lord Patten.

And he hopes he will have a role to play in strengthening the bonds – both political and business — between the two countries.

Lord Bilimoria follows in the footsteps of three other illustrious Parsis who have served in the British Parliament – though all of them were elected to the House of Commons, the lower house.

Dadabhai Naoroji was the first Indian — indeed, Asian — to be elected to the House of Commons, winning on a Liberal ticket and serving a four-year term from 1892 to 1895.

Mancherjee Bhownagree was the second Indian and Asian to be elected to the House of Commons, winning from the Bethnal Green constituency on a Conservative Party ticket. He served tenures between 1895 and 1906.

The third Parsi to enter the House of Commons was Shapurji Saklatvala, who was elected as a Communist candidate from Battersea North in 1922 with Labour support.

Saklatvala lost in 1923, but was re-elected without Labour support in 1924 — the first Communist to achieve this feat. He finally lost the seat in 1929.

Lord Bilimoria, the son of an Indian Army general, remembers playing, as a child, with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the sprawling presidential palace in New Delhi. He came to Britain for his higher education at age 19.

A general dissatisfaction with the “gassy and heavy” British beer that “just did not go well with Indian food”, led in 1990 to the creation of the lighter Cobra super premium beer – “the British beer of Indian origin”.

Cobra, which was initially brewed in Bangalore and shipped to Britain, is today one of the fastest-growing beer brands in Britain and the recipient of numerous Monde Selection gold medals – the spirits equivalent of the Oscars.

Original article here