In the end, the wind in the whistle proved to be just some hot air. That was the election symbol of Sumail Singh Sidhu, the academic-activist who contested as an independent in the Khadoor Sahib assembly bypoll. In the contest won by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Sumail - the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) former Punjab convener - came in fourth on the tally with just 2,243 votes out of the 1.09 lakh counted, a mere 2% share. This was even below the 2,252 that went to the NOTA option, with people choosing ‘None Of The Above’.
The SAD’s Ravinder Singh Brahmpura at 83,080 got nearly 76% of all votes counted, in what was a low-key affair after a boycott by the Congress and absence of the AAP; the polling percentage had come down significantly. Second on the tally was Congress rebel Bhupinder Singh with 17,416. All other candidates lost their deposit since none got more than 6% votes required to salvage the deposit.
Sumail, a doctorate-holder from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, has been a sympathiser of communist activism. He had been undertaking his poll campaign under the banner of ‘Punjab Sanjhiwal Morcha’ to give an impression that struggle against the ‘excesses’ of the established parties are “sanjha” (common). Although the Left, including the Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Punjab) had announced to stay away from the fray, its cadres in the segment were reportedly supporting him.
The farmer and labour wings of some of these parties have even openly announced to support him.
In the absence of another AAP dissident Bhai Baldeep Singh, whose nomination papers were rejected over a technicality, he was also trying to get the AAP supporters into his fold. The AAP dissenter had been claiming that he is not new for the local AAP volunteers as he remained its state-convener and paid many visits to the constituency earlier.
During the campaign, the volunteers of Punjab Sanjhiwal Morcha (PSM) could be seen distributing whistles (Sidhu’s election symbol), to the youngsters and children to make it popular among the voters.
Sidhu’s aide and former leader of left wing student outfit Punjab Students Union (PSU), Beant Singh, had told HT that they had purchased as many as 20,000 whistles of black colour for distribution. “Out of that, 5,000 have been distributed so far. We prefer black colour, as it is symbol of resentment against the government”, he added. In the end, he got much fewer votes than the whistles distributed.