Birmingham elects 1st Sikh Lord Mayor

Chaman Lal has been elected as Birmingham’s new Lord Mayor – the first British Indian from a Sikh family to take up the post.

Birmingham elects 1st Sikh Lord Mayor f

"lord mayor for all the people of Birmingham."

Chaman Lal has become Birmingham’s first British Indian from a Sikh family to be elected Lord Mayor.

Mayor Lal took up the prestigious role at Birmingham city council house, in Victoria Square.

In a speech to councillors and distinguished guests, Mayor Lal said it was a “very proud moment”.

He said: “It is a very proud moment for me and our family, as a son of an army officer born in India, but made in Birmingham.

“I am an adopted Brummie, and I never thought that one day I would become the lord mayor of my adopted city.

“I would like to thank my fellow councillors for electing me as their first citizen and of our great city which happens to be the highest civic role entrusted to a serving councillor.

“I would like to thank all the residents and Soho and Jewellery Quarter for their continued support over the past 29 years.

“As the saying goes, behind every successful man is a great woman which happens to be true in my life, as I couldn’t have made this achievement without the support of some very important women in my life.”

Mayor Lal thanked Councillor Robert Alden, the Conservative leader of the opposition, and Labour councillor Sybil Spence for their nomination speeches.

He continued: “Sybil help me enter politics in 1994.

“She is my little godmother but sometimes she can cause a bit of an embarrassment to me when she tells people that I am one of her sons out of wedlock. I know she means this in a loving way.

“I want to be known not as lord mayor of Birmingham, but lord mayor for all the people of Birmingham.

“I look forward to your support for the charity and to promote our great city to make it even greater.”

Mayor Lal, who previously served as councillor of Soho and Jewellery Quarter for 29 years, was born in the village of Pakhowal in Punjab, India.

He came to Birmingham with his mother in 1964 and has lived in the city ever since.

His father served as an officer in the British Indian army during World War Two in the Italian campaign.

Although he was unable to speak English, Mayor Lal showed a “self-starting spirit”, and found a school place by himself after turning up to several grammar schools in the local area. He attended Wattville secondary modern school, before leaving school aged 16.

He was inspired to study electronics further after growing up without central heating or hot water.

Mayor Lal went on to have several successful electronic businesses and continued to study economics and law.

Subtly referencing disgraced Lord Mayor Muhammad Afzal, who was caught with other Labour campaigners handing dates to residents in exchange for votes, Councillor Alden said:

“In recent months, there have been Birmingham Mail headlines about Birmingham Labour being split over who to appoint.

“We’re not about last week, but actually about councillor Lal’s victory back in December when the Labour group elected him as their nominee.

“However, we on this side of the chamber can think of no one better for Labour to have nominated this year as lord mayor.”

He praised Mayor Lal for his kindness and commitment to the role.

“When I heard the news that the Labour group had elected councillor Lal, I was rather hoping I’d be asked to speak as I do consider chairman, one of my friends across the chamber is someone with whom I’ve actually sat on the same committee almost my entire time.

“As many of you will know when you do one of these speeches you reach out to members across the chamber to ask them: ‘Do they have any stories or any tales they might like to say?’

“Without fail every single response I had highlighted what a kind person Chaman Lal is.

“Whether it highlighted how pleasant he is, or how a real gentleman he is, or how he always has a kind word and a smile for you when you see him down the street.

“Without exception, everyone agreed, he’ll be a Lord Mayor we can all be proud of in the year ahead.”

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

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