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Khadoor Sahib, Faridkot verdict; reading it wrong

Khadoor Sahib is known as a constituency dominated by ‘panthic’ sentiments, which identify with the Sikh community. Earlier, this sentiment was identified with the traditional Shiromani Akali Dal-Badal, now being led by Sukhbir Singh Badal. 

News Arena Network - Chandigarh - UPDATED: June 11, 2024, 05:51 AM - 5 mins read

Khadoor Sahib winner Amritpal Singh(left), Faridkot seat winner Sarabjeet Singh Khalsa(right).

Khadoor Sahib, Faridkot verdict; reading it wrong

Khadoor Sahib winner Amritpal Singh(left), Faridkot seat winner Sarabjeet Singh Khalsa(right).


Victory of radical preacher Amritpal Singh from Khadoor Sahib and Sarabjeet Singh, son of one of the assassins of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from Faridkot are being read and interpreted in a completely wrong way. Punjab, for sure, is not going the extremist way, as sought to be suggested. 

 

First of all, both Amritpal and Sarabjeet benefitted from the division of votes in five-cornered contests in both the seats.

This is not to belittle their victories. Both of them have scored decisive and emphatic victories over their powerful rivals, who possessed everything one needs in elections like organized party infrastructure and resources.

 

Khadoor Sahib is known as a constituency dominated by ‘panthic’ sentiments, which identify with the Sikh community. Earlier, this sentiment was identified with the traditional Shiromani Akali Dal-Badal, now being led by Sukhbir Singh Badal. 

 

For about the last decade, the SAD-B has seen a consistent and progressive decline. This was due to certain decisions during the SAD-B government between 2012 and 2017, which were mainly attributed to Sukhbir Badal, who was then the Deputy Chief Minister and had complete control of running the government.

 

First, it was the appointment of Sumedh Singh Saini as the Director General of Police, in Punjab. Saini, like KPS Gill, another former DGP, Punjab, is attributed with the success of finishing the militancy in Punjab.

 

With that, he is also accused of having used ruthless force to curb militancy leading to the alleged killing of several innocent youth, who got killed for no reason. 

 

For the Akali Dal government to appoint such an officer irrespective of his impeccable integrity, honesty and competence, with several allegations of rights violations against him, whether right or wrong, was something surprising for everyone, more so for the Akali supporters who started feeling inconvenienced and uncomfortable with this decision.

 

This was later followed by a pardon granted to the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh by the Akal Takhat in a sacrilege case, at the alleged behest of Sukhbir Badal, without appearing in person before the Akal Takhat.

 

The pardon was later withdrawn because of widespread resentment. But the damage that had been caused to the party could not be undone. 

 

Then unfortunately for the Akali government happened the incident of the sacrilege of holy Guru Granth Sahib. Sukhbir Badal, who was also the Home Minister, besides being the Deputy Chief Minister, initially attributed the sacrilege incidents to the ISI to destabilise Punjab. 

 

The real culprits behind the sacrilege could not be identified even till now. As people were protesting against the sacrilege, two persons were killed in the police firing over an angry mob, which police said turned violent and claimed that they fired in self-defence, as otherwise, the mob would have lynched them.

 

These three incidents, the first two of which were perfectly avoidable, have the main role in the loss of credibility the decline of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the rise of radical/hardline elements. 

 

There is a difference between the radical/hardline sentiment and extremism. The election of Amritpal and Sarabjeet is a radical reaction to the failure of traditional Akali Dal leadership. Even then the “radical reaction” is not extreme and extensive if the figures are taken into account.

 

In Khadoor Sahib, Amritpal got 4.04 lakh votes, 38 per cent of the total votes polled. The Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, the SAD-B the BJP and others got over six lakh votes from here. While about four lakh voters voted ‘for’ him, six lakh voters also voted ‘against’ him.

 

Both propositions are wrong. Neither the entire Khadoor Sahib has turned radical nor those who have voted for Amritpal are extremists. They have only chosen a different option this time. 

 

In Faridkot, Sarabjeet Singh got an even lesser percentage of votes 29.4 per cent. While he polled 2.98 lakh votes, candidates from other political parties polled more than double the votes he got. The AAP, the Congress, the Akali, the BJP and other candidates got over 6.50 lakh votes together.

 

This vote for Amritpal and Sarabjeet is the expression of disillusionment and alienation against the traditional political parties, the same way it was during the 2022 assembly elections when the AAP swept the state winning 92 of the 117 assembly segments.

 

One thing is for sure the vote for Amritpal and Sarabjeet is not a vote for extremism or, as some doomsday sayers would suggest, the return of terrorism, it is a vote of resentment and anger against the repeated failures, perceived or real, of the traditional political parties, the Congress and the Akalis in the past and the AAP now. 

 

This resentment and anger does have the potential to spiral out of control. It can get expressed in multiple ways and sometimes which may be beyond the control of anyone. Like it is grossly wrong to see this victory as the return of extremism, it will be equally wrong to brush aside the reasons for these verdicts and not to address them. 

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