Amarpreeet Aulakh, a 36-year-old Indo-Canadian who works in the real estate sector, paid close attention to Indian news channels on Friday night and Saturday morning. With reason — Aulakh is also the president of the Canadian unit of the Indian Overseas Congress.
Aulakh lives in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto where over 500 supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party thronged to the Shingar Banquet Hall, where they had a viewing for the election results. Ahead of the polls in Punjab, he had spent 25 days in India, often with Captain Amarinder Singh.
“People are seeing the reality,” he said, even though the general sentiment among Indo-Canadians may have tilted towards AAP. While there may have been plenty of enthusiasm among the AAP’s young cadre, Aulakh said Congress’ supporters were veterans of many elections: “We are old hands,” he said.
On Friday, Aulakh stayed at home — the Congress had no events organised. “Done, done,” he said, as the results started streaming in.
Meanwhile, over at the banquet hall, AAP’s supporters were waiting with bated breath. However, in a mere two hours, their enthusiasm turned into shock, and the venue emptied out as the now sombre supporters left for home. Some who were scheduled to appear for election night debates on local Punjabi-language TV channels opted out, unable to believe what had transpired.
Among those taken aback was 32-year-old Sudeep Singla. “Things went completely off track. We are all very very upset, we never thought this could happen,” he said. Adding to the sense of injury was the fact that party had “not even lost very respectfully”.
The secretary of the AAP’s Canadian chapter, Sumesh Handa, was following the results at the residence of party convenor Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi. He put on a brave face. “We did not get what we expected, as it goes in democracy. But this is the first time we fought outside Delhi and we got so many seats, which is a big thing.”
Back in Canada, though, Singla expects morale to drop following this defeat. “I was ready to work for the Gujarat project,” he said, referring to assembly elections in that state later this year. “But I don’t know now. The mood was terrible, hopes were shattered.”
In the aftermath of the results, Aulakh will now head to Punjab early next week to attend the swearing-in ceremony. He plans to organise a victory reception in Toronto on his return. He has other plans as well — Captain Amrainder Singh had been unable to travel to Canada last spring due to legal roadblocks set up by the hardline activist group Sikhs for Justice.But now, Aulakh hopes to welcome him to Canada as Punjab’s Chief Minister. “I asked him when I was in Punjab, and he said, ‘100% I will come’,” Aulakh said.