In a country where Indians were once disfranchised, 42 Indo Canadian candidates are contesting the federal elections, the voting for which will take place on October 19.
In BC alone, there are 14 Indo Canadian candidates seeking election. These include three sitting MPs, Nina Grewal, Jinny Sims and Jasbeer Sandhu. While Grewal is from the ruling Conservative Party, other two are New Democrats.
Other current MPs seeking reelection include, Tim Uppal, Bal Gosal, Param Gill, Devinder Shory and Deepak Obhrai.
Two former Punjabi MPs in the fray are Sukh Dhaliwal and Navdeep Singh Bains. Both are the Liberal candidates. Dhaliwal is from BC, while Bains is contesting in Ontario. The party which was nearly decimated in the previous election is now confident of making major gains under the charismatic leadership of Justin Trudeau- the son of late Pierre Trudeau, the former Canadian Prime Minister who is credited for bringing charter of rights and winning the confidence of visible minorities.
The polls are indicating a constant surge in the popularity of Liberal Party. Some are predicting minority Liberal government with 143 seats in the House of 338 members.
In BC, four ridings are being closely watched by the Indo Canadian community. These include Surrey Newton, Surrey Centre, Fleetwood Port-Kells and Vancouver South. All these ridings have a sizable population of Indo Canadians.
In Surrey Newton, the contest is mainly between the NDP MP Jinny Sims and former Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal. Other two candidates in the race are Harpreet Singh from the Conservative Party of Canada and Green Party candidate Pam Sangha. All candidates in the riding share Indo Canadian heritage. Sims had won this riding in the last federal election after defeating Dhaliwal with a narrow margin. Nevertheless, it won’t be a cakewalk for Dhaliwal - who was fined for Income Tax Act violation in 2013.
After being charged for the offence he had to resign from the candidacy of the BC Liberal Party in the 2013 provincial election. He hopes to make a comeback if Trudeau mania grips political mood in the riding. His campaign office is decked up with Trudeau posters all over the place. He keeps reminding voters about the legacy of Pierre Trudeau- who was popular in the South Asian community for opening doors to the immigrants.
In Surrey Centre, four Indo Canadian candidates are in the race for the federal elections. The competition is mainly between the NDP MP Jasbeer Sandhu and the Liberal candidate Randeep Singh Sarai. Interestingly, Sarai has been endorsed by former Conservative MP Dona Cadman. The other two Punjabi candidates are Sucha Thind from the Conservative Party and Iqbal Kahlon of the Communist Party of Canada.
The Conservative MP Nina Grewal is locked in a tough fight with Garry Begg of NDP. Begg is a former high profile police officer. With crime situation worsening in Surrey and the Conservatives going down in polls Grewal seems to be in a vulnerable situation.
In Vancouver South, the contest is mainly between the Conservative MP Wai Young and Punjabi Liberal candidate Lt col Harjit Singh Sajjan. Vancouver South has generally remained a Liberal seat in the past. Young had won the riding after defeating former Liberal minister Ujjal Dosanjh with a narrow margin in the last federal election. Sajjan is currently on leave from the Canadian army. But Sajjan faces a number of challenges, one being the presence of another Punjabi candidate Amandeep Nijjar of the NDP.
Sajjan is also facing opposition from a section of moderate Sikhs - who are now backing Young. Many of them previously supported Liberal Party and wanted to see Barj Dhahan- a business tycoon nominated as official candidate. After Dhahan was ousted, they announced public opposition to the Liberal Party. They alleged that Sajjan was being favoured under pressure of the World Sikh Organization (WSO); a powerful lobby group that once supported movement for Sikh homeland, as his father was its member. But the Liberals and the WSO had refuted these allegations.
Ironically, some Sikh fundamentalists had supported Young in the 2011 elections as against Dosanjh - who is known as critic of religious extremism. He was physically assaulted in 1985 for criticizing growing fundamentalism within the Sikh community.