Formerly of Vasco city, Imtiyaz Shaikh is making waves in the UK. It’s been over a decade since Imtiyaz moved to London. “I came to London in 2005 with a dream of making something out of my life, with the opportunities the country offered,” he says. “My experiences during the last 13 years have been nothing but positive, living in a country that embodies unity through diversity.” Today, he is a proud public figure in Swindon after having been elected as the borough councillor in Eastcott, Swindon.
A Goan boy’s journey from Goa to Swindon
Imtiyaz grew up and lived in Goa until 2005. He studied at St Joseph’s Institute, Vasco, and later worked at Western Union Shipyard Ltd. He also ran the ICJ dance school with two friends and helped out with his family business.
When he moved from London to Swindon, he got involved in the Goan Swindon Association as well as the Vasco Swindon Association. He began interacting and supporting the community.
Imtiyaz entered politics in 2013 after an opportunity presented itself. “I didn’t hesitate in putting a foot forward as I believed this could be a more effective platform to help and represent residents,” he says. “In the years leading up to this, I realized that our Goan diaspora living in Swindon needed a representative to raise their grievances and address their issues. Even though I don’t come from a political background, my policy has always been one of humility and service to those that need it.”
Helping the community
And he has been great at putting his policy into actions. Imtiyaz headed a project in which English lessons were given to senior citizens and got the council to agree to the grant. The classes were taught by Goans, some of whom are teachers in Swindon, and others from different professional backgrounds.
He also started an evening tea-time talk to encourage senior citizens from all communities to socialize.
Imtiyaz’s journey to politics
Imtiyaz did not come from a political background. But seeing that there was much to be done in the community, he decided to venture in and help. In 2014, he contested on a Liberal Democrat ticket and on a Labour ticket in 2017 for the parliamentary elections in Devizes, Wiltshire. But it did not take.
The father of two, originally from Vasco, contested on a Labour party ticket. With sheer hard work, he received 46% of the vote share and has become the first Goan councilor to be elected in Swindon, home to roughly 20,000 Goans. A borough council is a tier of local government responsible for services like rubbish collection, recycling, council tax collection, housing, and planning applications.
“I contested again because I believe the Labour manifesto can bring about a change,” he says. “I trust their ethos and post Brexit, Labour is the only way forward.” He adds that the party has always “stood by and supported immigrants and worked towards a fair and open policy for all”.
The future looks bright
Politics is not an easy game to play. Not everyone is fighting the good fight or even in someone’s corner, cheering them on. But Imtiyaz is fighting for the people around him. When asked if it was a tough political fight because of his Asian background, he says, “the fact that I have won the borough elections reaffirms that people here have been very open in welcoming me. Anyone who thinks otherwise in today’s society will struggle and won’t progress with change”.
Shaikh said that apart from the initial struggles of first-generation immigrants, Goans have made great strides in every sector. “They’re focused and hardworking,” he says.
He says that Goans and other residents supported him because of his ‘open and honest’ policy. “I work hard for them, and even if I can’t resolve their issues at times, I mediate between them and the council, police, schools and the home office,” he says.
Information credit – TOI