Former journalist Jarnail Singh knew that hurling a shoe at the country’s home minister P Chidambaram “under protest” in 2009 would cost him his journalistic career. But he had no idea that he would embark upon a political career and dash the hopes of Akalis in Delhi after six years.
Defeating SAD’s best bet Manjinder Singh Sirsa by over 10,000 votes in Rajouri Garden constituency as a Sikh face, Jarnail has made his debut to the Vidhan Sabha as an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA.
“Sirsa was the lone symbol and hope of the Akali Dal here and we have crushed all their hopes,” he told HT on phone from Delhi.
“Punjab is my next target,” he said, when asked about his plans. “The issues of Punjab -- whether it is drugs or corruption -- echoed in Rajouri Garden,” he said.
Jarnail said 17 Akali MLAs and SGPC members were campaigning for Sirsa alone in Rajouri Garden. “We wiped them out with the broom,” he said.
This was Jarnail’s second electoral battle as he had lost the Lok Sabha election to BJP’s Harsh Vardhan from Tilak Nagar last year.
The constitution of the special investigation team (SIT), as per the decision notified by the earlier 49-day government of the AAP, will now be Jarnail’s top priority.
Acknowledging “the great efforts” of his party colleague HS Phoolka in pursing the matter, he said the AAP government would assure that all cases and the “specific FIRs” would be re-investigated through the SIT.
“The SIT will look beyond what had then happened, probing why the cases of murders in cold blood had fallen flat,” Jarnail said.
Recalling the shoe-tossing incident, Jarnail said he knew that it would end his journalistic career. “I was the deputy chief of bureau of Dainik Jagran in Delhi, and my junior colleagues are editors today,” he said. “It was my choice and I knew I would be losing my job,” he added.
On his book ‘I Accuse’, Jarnail said the task was accomplished “to make people understand not only my protest, but also what went wrong in 1984, with several minute details of which people were not aware”.
Getting honoured and rejecting offer
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) had honoured Jarnail on Baisakhi day on April 14, 2009 at the SGPC headquarters in Amritsar, a week after the shoe-tossing incident. He, however, did not accept the SGPC’s job offer as a media manager.
Sikh faces in Delhi Vidhan Sabha
Of the total 13 Sikh candidates of main political parties, all four from AAP have won, while two of the BJP, four of the SAD (three with the BJP symbol) and three of the Congress lost to the AAP.
Besides Rajouri Garden’s Jarnail, AAP’s another Jarnail Singh won the Tilak Nagar seat. The party’s two other victorious Sikh candidates are Jagdeep Singh, who retained the Hari Nagar seat, and Avtar Singh from Kalkaji.
The losers are SAD’s outgoing MLAs Harmeet Singh Kalka (Kalkaji), Jatinder Singh Shanty (Shahdara), Avtar Singh Hit (Hari Nagar) besides Sirsa (Rajouri Garden).
The Congress’s losing Sikh faces are Tarwinder Singh Marwah (Jungpura), Parladh Singh Sahni (Chandni Chowk) and Surinderpal Singh Bittu (Timarpur).
The BJP losers are RP Singh (Rajendra Nagar) and MS Dhir (Jungpura).