Backed by leftists, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) former state convener Sumail Singh Sidhu, who is contesting the Khadoor Sahib bypoll as an independent candidate, is confident about his victory in the assembly segment which is considered as ‘panthic’ (rightists) stronghold.
Sidhu, who is a PhD holder from Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi and has been a sympathiser of communist activism, is 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 parties, including Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Punjab) have announced to stay away from the fray, its cadres in the segment, silently, have been supporting Sidhu.
Meanwhile, farmer and labourer wings of some of these parties have even openly announced to support Sidhu. Jamhuri Kisan Sabha and Dihati Majdoor Sabha, which are connected with CPI (M-P) led by Mangat Ram Pasla, have not only backed the independent candidate, but have also joined his election campaign.
Jamhuri Kisan Sabha’s district president Pargat Singh Jamarai on Friday conducted a number of gatherings in support of Sidhu at Munda Pind, Gujarpura, Bhail Dhae Wala, Johal Dhae Wala Failoke, Tur, Kot Mohammad Khan, Kahlwan and Bhatthal Bhaika villages and made an appeal to vote for Sidhu.
Talking to HT, Jamarai said the SAD-BJP and the Congress had always promoted and implemented neo-liberal policies, which were generally anti-people. “So, we have been opposing these parties since long. Continuing our agenda, we have decided to back Sumail Singh Sidhu, whose thinking is pro-people and he is raising the basic public issues during the poll campaign,” he said.
When contacted, CPI’s district secretary Tara Singh Khehra denied any support to Sidhu, but admitted that they had a soft corner for Sidhu. “Though our state committee has resolved to stay away from the bypoll and we respect its decision, Sumail Singh Sidhu is better than other candidates”.
It is notable that as the assembly segment is known as a “panthic” stronghold due to the Sikh majority here, most of the times, the SAD candidates have won the seat. However, in 2012 assembly elections, Congress candidate Ramanjit Singh Sikki defeated Akali stalwart Ranjit Singh Brahmpura. As per political pundits, it became possible only as Sikki enjoyed a “panthic” image among locals.
Keeping these ground realities in view, Sidhu is also touching the religious concerns of Sikhs. He is taking up the issue of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib, which took place across the state last year. Sometimes, he quotes Sikh scriptures and uses the terms from “gurbani” while convincing the voters.
In absence of another AAP dissident Bhai Baldeep Singh, whose nomination papers were rejected by the returning officer, Sidhu is also trying to get the AAP supporters into his fold. The AAP dissenter claims that he is not new for the local AAP volunteers, as he remained its state-convener and paid many visits to the constituency earlier.
Besides conducting street meetings, Sidhu and his aides are carrying out door to door campaign as well. Their way of campaigning is quite informal. Meanwhile, on Saturday, he went to Pandori Gola village.
Meanwhile, his office at Goindwal Sahib appeared as a camp for representatives of various protesting socialist groups, who have come from different places of Punjab to campaign for him. However, locals are few.
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, told HT that they had purchased as many as 20,000 whistles of black colour for distribution. “Out of which, 5,000 have been distributed so far. We prefer black colour, as it is symbol of resentment against the government”, he added.