Pritam Singh (39) has emerged as the lone Punjabi winner in the recently concluded Singapore general elections, held amid a sympathy wave after the death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew earlier this year. This is a decline from the 2011 general elections, where two Punjabis - Inderjeet Singh of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and Pritam Singh of the Worker's Party (WP) - were elected.
Inderjeet Singh's announcing his retirement as MP after four terms had left the ruling PAP with no Punjabi candidate. Pritam Singh who has retained his seat, is organising secretary on his party's executive council. A 2003 Chevening scholar, he works as an advocate-solicitor.
Four Punjabis were in the race
Four Punjabi candidates contested the 2016 general elections. Along with Pritam Singh, there were Gurmit Singh contesting from the Worker's Party, Sukdeu Singh from Singaporeans First (SingFirst), and Harminder Pal Singh from the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA).
Pritam Singh, a group candidate of Workers' Party (WP) from the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), secured 51% of the votes cast, compared with the PAP's 49%, indicating a close contest amid the PAP juggernaut that helped the ruling party win 15 of the 16 GRCs with the WP winning only Aljunied. The GRC is a unique electoral constituency in Singapore, where members of parliament are elected as a group. GRCs have been created to ensure minority representation in the Singapore Parliament; and at least one of the candidates in a GRC should be a Malay, Indian, or a member of another minority community.
The other WP candidate, Gurmit Singh (55), legal counsel in a property firm, had left his party to join SingFirst but rejoined the WP to emerge as a candidate. Another Punjabi contestant, Sukdeu Singh (64), is a retired police officer who has served the Singapore Police Force for 31 years.
He has also acted in the television series "True Files", where he performed the role of late Justice Choor Singh, one of Singapore's most prominent supreme court judges. The lone turbaned candidate was Harminder Pal Singh of the SDA, who was often seen on television delivering his party's election broadcast; and who had emerged as a crowd favourite, courtesy his public-speaking ability. A motivation speaker, the 43-year old was the SDA's chief media officer.
Veteran Inderjeet Singh missed
Singapore missed Inderjeet Singh (55), a four-time MP from the Ang Mo Kio GRC since 1996. His decision to retire from electoral politics, which he announced on Facebook, led to considerable debate on the reasons, since at 55, he had age on his side. His absence meant that the ruling PAP did not field a Sikh candidate, an issue taken up at an event organized by the Young Sikh Association at the Central Sikh Gurdwara where law minister K Shanmugam had to face this question. The minister responded by stating that the Indian community should not expect to have an MP for every "Indian race".
The ruling PAP romped home, grabbing 69% in the September 11 elections, compared to 2011 where it secured 60.1 per cent vote. The incumbent Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong of PAP is the eldest of son of the country's founding PM Lee Kuan Yew, and has served as PM since 2004.