Karan Bilimoria, first Parsi in House of Lords


August 30, 2006

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History | Individuals

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, said 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.