As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces calls to resign following revelations of booze-fuelled parties at his official residence in Downing Street – in breach of his own coronavirus lockdown rules – a teetotaller of Indian heritage is emerging as a possible successor. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, 41, is the bookmakers’ favourite to take over should Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in Johnson. If Sunak – who the tabloids once dubbed “Dishy Rishi” for his good looks and generous coronavirus relief measures – does become prime minister, he would be the first person of colour to get the job and the first to swear his parliamentary oath on the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Hindu scripture. An MP since only 2015, Sunak’s political rise has been stellar. But unlike his predecessor as chancellor, Sajid Javid, son of a Pakistani bus driver, Sunak can hardly claim he made it against the odds. Sunak’s story, and that of his family, runs close to the British establishment and its colonial past. He also made an exceptionally good marriage to Akshata Murthy, daughter of Narayana Murthy, the billionaire founder of Indian tech giant Infosys. While Sunak made an estimated £200 million (US$272 million) as a hedge fund manager, his wife’s shares in Infosys are said to be worth £430 million, making her richer on some estimates than Queen Elizabeth. The couple met while they were studying for MBAs at Stanford University in California, marrying in 2009 in a modest ceremony – at least by rich Indian standards – in Bangalore. Sunak’s father-in-law, dubbed the “Bill Gates” of India, is a confidante of India’s right-wing Hindu prime minister Narendra Modi . Leaks, lies, illegal Xmas party: what Asia can learn from BoJo’s crisis Sunak’s elevation would certainly be a source of pride in New Delhi under the current administration, if not with all Indians at home and abroad. “When overseas Indians speak openly about the challenges to democracy, social justice and intolerance in India, they are accused of being ‘foreign agents’ or ‘self-hating Indians’,” said Dibyesh Anand, professor of international relations at the University of Westminster. “When they support the Hindu majoritarian vision of India or keep quiet and only refer to their ‘Indianness’ in cultural pride terms, their success is seen as an Indian success. For many other Indians and diasporic Indians, like myself, who believe in secular and democratic India, his success means very little.” Sunak’s parents, a doctor and a pharmacist, are high-caste Hindus from Punjab. They came to the UK in the 1960s via Kenya and Tanzania in east Africa, eventually settling in the southern port city of Southampton. Grandparents on both sides worked for the British Raj. Sunak was a private boarder at the prestigious Winchester College, before going on to study politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford and then heading to Stanford as a Fulbright Scholar. His first job was with the US investment bank Goldman Sachs. He then became a partner in the hedge fund management company The Children’s Investment Fund. In 2010 Sunak set up his own hedge fund firm, then, six months before Johnson swept to power, he set up a blind trust, Catamaran Ventures, believed to contain tens if not hundreds more millions. The Sunaks own a Georgian mansion near his Richmond, north Yorkshire, constituency earning him the moniker in the press of “The Maharajah of the Yorkshire Dales.” How two Hong Kong-owned ports will help UK pivot to Asia after Brexit According to press reports the mansion has an ornamental pool and a wildlife park; Sunak recently made the news with a planning application to build a huge swimming pool and tennis courts. The couple also own a huge town house in Kensington, London, worth an estimated £7.5 million, another apartment nearby and one in Santa Monica, California. A diehard Brexiteer and mastermind behind the freeports being rolled out across the UK, Sunak took the reins at the Exchequer shortly before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. His generous furlough schemes and articulacy quickly made him popular, while a combination of his good looks and his “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme – that offered 50 per cent discounts to diners to shore up the beleaguered catering sector – gained him the moniker “Dishy Rishi”. Still, not everyone is convinced of his generosity. While agreeing to write off £4.3 billion in support loans to businesses, he has opposed a £20 weekly rise in benefits for the poorest families. Critics say that is particularly tough given inflation in the UK is now at 5.4 per cent, its highest level in 30 years. Then there is the question of his loyalty to the embattled Johnson, to whom Sunak has so far been careful to offer only guarded public support. Earlier this week he cut short a television interview when pressed on whether he believed Johnson’s claim the parties were work-related. Some observers say his ambition was already clear last year when he hired his own public relations team. A carefully posed shot of him at the top of the stairs in the Treasury with his staff below is said to have de-emphasised his relatively short 1.7 metre frame. But is he ready to do what would be required to oust a sitting prime minister, and openly oppose his boss? He has many friends in the right places. Sunak’s mentor at Goldman Sachs, Richard Sharp, is now chairman of the BBC. His best friend at Winchester, James Forsyth, is political editor of the right-wing The Spectator magazine that Johnson once edited. Johnson’s vindictive former chief aid Dominic Cummings, now dripping party stories to the press, is also a Sunak supporter. That could lead to accusations of disloyalty. A less kindly nickname for the Chancellor is “Fishy Sunak”. If Conservative MPs do sack Johnson, they will be looking at the long-term electability of his successor. Sunak’s wealth may go against him in the public eye as might his ethnicity. His fondness for expensive designer clothes and £180 “smart” coffee cup that keeps drinks at the preferred temperature have not been lost on the acerbic British press. And as the immigration realities of Britain leaving the European Union kick in, including the likelihood of more visas for Indians in return for a trade deal, Sunak might be too much for the anti-immigration Brexit supporters to swallow.