Indo-Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh favourite to become the next leader of New Democratic Party | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Indo-Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh favourite to become the next leader of New Democratic Party

Indo-Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh has emerged as the favourite to become the next leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP),

world Updated: Aug 31, 2017 12:51 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
The odds in Singh’s favour have improved in his attempt to become the first person from the Indian-origin community to lead a national political party.
The odds in Singh’s favour have improved in his attempt to become the first person from the Indian-origin community to lead a national political party. (File Photo)

Indo-Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh has emerged as the favourite to become the next leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), with support from hardline elements within the community one of the possible factors behind the surge.

Registered members of the NDP, one of the three largest parties in Canada, will commence voting on September 18 to elect their new leader and results will be declared on October 1.

More than 124,000 members are eligible to vote in the leadership elections, the NDP said in a release.

The odds in Singh’s favour have improved in his attempt to become the first person from the Indian-origin community to lead a national political party.

Singh’s campaign boasted of having signed up more than 47,000 members in the 13 weeks since he entered the contest. While a rival campaign has alleged those numbers are inflated, it has still been an impressive haul for the 38-year-old contender.

The NDP was the main opposition party in the previous House of Commons, and its provincial units have governments in British Columbia and Albert a provinces. The next NDP leader will captain the party’s campaign for the 2019 federal elections.

New Delhi will be watching these developments closely, since Singh is barred from travelling to India and sponsored a motion in the Ontario Assembly last year aimed at terming the 1984 anti-Sikhs riots as “genocide”.

More recently, he accused Indian diplomats of trying to undermine his campaign.

That profile holds appeal for hardline groups who may have played a role in boosting his membership ranks and donations.

Prominent Khalistani activist Sukhminder Singh Hansra, president of the Shriromani Akali Dal-Canada East, said his group supports “the candidacy of Jagmeet Singh” and that he has asked “every member to support his campaign whichever way they can”.

“SADA Canada has a mandate to represent and protect the interest of Sikhs, including human rights within Canada and the right to self-determination on (the) international stage. Jagmeet Singh fits best for the job,” Hansra said in an emailed response to queries from the Hindustan Times.

That last part of his response alludes to the separatist campaign for a Sikh homeland.

Some experts believe Singh could capture the leadership.

Nelson Wiseman, professor of political science and director of the Canadian Studies Program at the University of Toronto, said, “I think he’s going to win.

“As the Sikh community is very active politically in Canada, it has demonstrated great capacity for mobilisation and that cuts across all parties,” he said.

Wiseman added that Indo-Canadians, it had been shown, were “more likely to vote” in political races than their counterparts in other demographic groups.

Of those registered by Singh’s campaign, nearly 30,000 or about two-thirds are from Ontario. This isn’t surprising since this is Singh’s backyard, as he is a member of the provincial assembly from a constituency in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

This is also where hardline elements have been most active in supporting him, including online.

Another 10,000 are from British Columbia, showing that more than 85% of members registered by Singh’s campaign come from just these two provinces.

A leading figure in the Khalistan movement told the Hindustan Times while the process was on, that he intended to facilitate the collection of Canadian $1 million and the signing up of more than 30,000 members for Singh.

Many of these are traditionally supporters of the Liberal Party but are switching for the singular purpose of voting for Singh. However, there is no indication Singh’s campaign has publicly solicited support from hardline elements within the community.

Singh also has great mainstream appeal among the NDP faithful, with his progressive policy positions and personal charisma, including his appearance in the style sections of several magazines. That is the principal cause for his rise.

Wiseman said Singh may even win “on the first ballot”. He also described him as a ”wild card’” for the NDP but one who “has the most upside potential for the party”.

If his core base turns out in substantial numbers, Singh may well clinch the leadership early.