[Photo courtesy: Twitter/@AdamBienkov]
London: In a last bit effort to save from humiliating defeat, Conservative Zac Goldsmith is using Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's name to woo Hindu and SIkh voters even as his rival Pakistani origin Sadiq Khan is well placed to become Mayor of London - first Muslim to occupy the post.
Balloting is underway on Thursday in England, Scotland and Wales to elect mayors and fill up assembly and parliamentary seats. The battle for London's mayorship has become the most high-profile contest.
The Conservatives have been accused of trying to exploit racial tensions to help Goldsmith win, the Financial Times said.
Customised leaflets addressed to Hindu, Sikh and Tamil voters mention subjects such as Narendra Modi, the 1984 killing of Sikhs in India and the Sri Lankan civil war.
One leaflet had a picture of Goldsmith meeting Modi on a visit to London and pointed out that Khan did not.
Ash Mukherjee, 40, a management consultant from India who has lived in Britain since 1993, said he thought Goldsmith was "subtly positioning" himself "as pro-Modi and therefore pro-Hindu" against Khan.
Catherine Heseltine of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, a civil liberties group, said Goldsmith was "obviously not interested in Muslim voters". She said the leaflets "effectively highlight to Hindu voters that Sadiq Khan is a Muslim".
The Muslim Association of Britain said it was disturbed how some candidates had gone to extreme measures to attack either Islamic practices or Muslims to attract support.
All indications are that Khan, 45, a former human rights lawyer and a Labour MP from Tooting since 2005, will emerge the winner. That will make the former bus driver's son Europe's most powerful Muslim politician.
A YouGov poll gave the Labour candidate a 16-point lead among first-preference votes, with 48 percent of support, followed by Goldsmith on 32 percent.
When second-choice votes were reallocated, the split was 60 percent support for Khan and 40 percent for Goldsmith. Arguably, the election is slanted in Khan's favour.