Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, facing cases for his alleged involvement in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, may be out of active politics by passing on the baton to his son and brother, but the riots issue still haunts him.
Sensing an uncomfortable query, Sajjan, who at 66 looks frail but is still in control of the situation, outright refuses an interview. He sits at the election office in Lane No 16 of Sangam Vihar constituency from where his son Jagparvesh, 41, is the Congress candidate for the Delhi assembly polls to be held on December 4.
"Tell everyone to press the button in favour of the Congress on the polling day," is the firm direction Sajjan gives to a local Muslim leader.
He may say that he is no longer interested in politics and has given charge to his son and brother -- South Delhi MP Ramesh Kumar -- but he still has the hold over things. Sangam Vihar assembly constituency is part of the South Delhi parliamentary seat.
Sajjan faces three cases for his alleged involvement in the 1984 riots. Twenty-nine years after the riots, the issue may not have much effect on the election prospects of his son. Replying to a query whether the riots was an issue in the elections, Jagparvesh says, "Development is the issue, what the sitting MLA -- BJP's SCL Gupta -- has not done and what my father and uncle have done during their tenures as MPs."
Sitting MP Ramesh Kumar, six years younger to Sajjan, when asked about the riots, says, "The Congress is comfortable in the entire Delhi, but please don't talk about the riots issue." A family close aide says the family has decided not to talk on the issue.
In a case registered at Sultanpuri police station against Sajjan, the trial is underway and a petition has been filed for stay in the trial but was rejected by the Supreme Court. In another case registered at Nangloi police station, a chargesheet was prepared in 1992 but so far it has not been filed in the trial court. In yet another case, Sajjan was acquitted by the trial court against which an appeal has been filed in the Delhi high court.
According to Gurmukh Singh, 66, a Sikh resident in the constituency who retired from the railways, anti-Sikh riots is an issue and a blot on the Congress which can never be washed.
"If he (Sajjan Kumar) has not killed the innocent Sikhs, then who has killed them," wonders Kashmir Singh, another Sikh standing close to Jagparvesh's election office.
Of 1.38 lakh voters in the constituency, which comprises an almost equal number of Hindus and Muslims, there are only around 500 Sikh families. Ten days ago, SAD Delhi unit president Manjit Singh GK had condemned the Congress for choosing Jagparvesh as a candidate. In 2009, after protests by Sikhs, Sajjan's candidature was cancelled and his brother had contested from the South Delhi constituency.
Sajjan's close aides say he still enjoys a considerable hold in the outer Delhi area and has mastered the art of winning elections. "He may win many elections in future but people will not forgive the family for killing innocent Sikhs," says Baldev Singh, adding that he is not bothered as to who wins from Sangam Vihar.
BJP announces manifesto
The BJP, which is contesting the Delhi assembly polls in alliance with the SAD, on Tuesday declared its election manifesto. At the time of declaring the manifesto, there was no one present from the SAD. According to SAD Delhi affairs in-charge Balwant Singh Ramowalia, the BJP has included the SAD's issues in their manifesto. "The issues of punishment to the perpetrators of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and granting the second-language status to Punjabi in Delhi are prominent," Ramowalia told HT.