He may well be a Sufi songbird in terms of art, but in his politics Hans Raj Hans prefers feathers that float with the fair weather.
On Saturday, he joined the Congress, a year after he left the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), dejected over being “sidelined” by Punjab deputy chief minister and SAD boss Sukhbir Singh Badal, his “political guru”. Now, Hans is singing paeans to state Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh, which many see as his newest attempt to grab a high chair in the Punjab darbar.
On SAD stage with ‘royal’ title
He was at a time considered close to Amarinder, scion of the erstwhile Patiala royalty, but the title of ‘Raj Gayak’ (royal court singer) was given to him by the Akalis in 2001. The unofficial title led to a controversy over the ‘feudalistic concept’.
Yet, it had the desired effect on Hans, who put his lungs to passionate use for the SAD in the 2002 assembly polls. The SAD lost, and he went back to the political greenroom. The Raj Gayak title stuck, with even Amarinder not averse to using it.
His ‘militant’ song
As an artist, he hit peaks in the classical circles while his pop success remains limited. Even here, he got into trouble in 1992, when his song ‘Patta Patta Singhan Da Beri’ (‘Everything seems an enemy of the Sikhs’) was interpreted as a glorification of Khalistani militants. He cried hoarse that the song was about tortures faced by Sikhs during the Mughal era. The religious album did get him roaring popularity.
Poll tunes gone off key
Fast-forward to 2007, he was again on the Akali stage in a successful campaign for the SAD-BJP combine. In 2009, he got the SAD ticket for the Lok Sabha poll from Jalandhar, a constituency reserved for Scheduled Castes. He lost, but underlined his SC Balmiki identity, and even now pitches himself as a leader of the Dalits, targeting the Balmiki-Mazhabi-Masih vote-bank.
He tried for the SAD ticket in 2014 but was denied in favour of Pawan Kumar Tinu. He did not campaign in Jalandhar but was happy to sing praises of CM Parkash Singh Badal’s daughter-in-law, Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal, in Bathinda.
By December 2014, he apparently lost motivation and quit the SAD, declaring that “politics is a dirty game and I was not meant for it”.
Not meant for it?
Yet, he held meetings with BJP leaders in a bid to join the saffron party. It did not work out, and Hans said politics was his “biggest mistake”. By March last, he joined the Radha Soami Satsang, Beas, teaching music at the sect academy. In the meantime, his two sons tasted success in showbiz. But spiritualism wasn’t to be his last refuge, yet.
Even in 2006, he had become the gaddi-nashin (head) of the dera Baba Lal Badshah at Nakodar; but left by 2015 after controversies over his religious inclinations, particularly given his desperation to project himself as a Balmiki leader. His love for the Pakistani people and respect for Islam got him some negative publicity from the Right wing too amid rumours of conversion.
Holding the hand
On his way to the Congress, he reportedly tried to land in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) net, but a fellow artist in that party scuttled that. In artistic circles, Hans is known to lend a helping hand to juniors to explore his “one true love”, music of all kinds. His political tunes are perhaps only a hangover of his artistic versatility.