Delhi Assembly polls 2020: Sikhs’ influence greater than the sum of its numbers
Sikhs may constitute only five percent of Delhi’s population of over two crores, however, they still exercise considerable influence on politics and assembly polls in the national capital, making political parties vie for the support of the community, believed to vote as a block.
There are about eight lakh Sikh voters in Delhi with their concentration varying across the 70 constituencies between 4,000 to 40,000 except for Rajouri Garden and Tilak Nagar, where it peaks at around 55,000, giving them the decisive edge.
Adding to their clout is the cash rich Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) which has a budget of Rs 100 crore to run hospitals, schools and colleges and over 800 ‘Singh Sabhas’ or Mohalla gurdwaras, that play a key role in keeping the community linked.
“The polls are decided on narrow margins, making Sikhs important despite their small numbers in the majority of constituencies, and the best part is that they (Sikhs) vote en-block for a party or a candidate,” said DSGMC president and Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who is also a two-time MLA from Rajouri garden.
Sirsa said Sikhs had the numbers in 10 seats of Rajouri garden, Tilak Nagar, Moti Nagar, Vikas Puri, Hari Nagar, Rajinder Nagar, Kalkaji, Jangpura, GTB Nagar, Punjab Bagh and Geeta colony to impact results.
He added that SAD has a considerable hold over Delhi Sikhs and that was resented by others. He said while Sikh population was not very big in Shahdara, party candidate Jatinder Singh Shanty was still a strong contender there.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is in alliance with the BJP and is fighting on four seats; Manjinder Singh Sirsa (Rajouri Garden), Jatinder Singh Shanty (Shahdara), Harmeet Singh Kalka (Kalkaji) and Hari Nagar seat, for which the party is yet to announce a candidate.
The BJP, too, has fielded four Sikhs: RP Singh (Rajinder Nagar), Ishpreet Singh Bakshi (Jangpura), Surinder Singh Bittu (Timarpur) and Shikha Kaur (Greater Kailash).
Congress has fielded six Sikhs candidates-- Arwinder Singh Lovely (Gandhi Nagar), Tarwinder Singh Marwaha (Jangpura), Arwinder Singh (Deoli), Amandeep Singh Sudan (Rajouri garden), Gurcharan Singh Raju (Vishvash Nagar) and Ravinder Singh Bumbrah (Tilak Nagar).
AAP has fielded only two Sikh candidates, Jarnail Singh from Tilak Nagar and Parlad Singh Sawhney from Chandni Chowk.
However Sirsa’s rival Manjit Singh GK who, too, headed the DSGMC once and was the president of SAD, told HT that Sikhs were confused going into this assembly polls.
“They (Sikhs) cut ties with the Congress to vote for SAD-BJP alliance then shifted support to AAP and now, they are confused,” said GK.
He added that Sikhs are traders, shop owners, builders, transporters and industrialists, who not only vote but also support the elections financially and socially and therefore the community’s impact on the election was much bigger than its population.
Tarun Chugh, co-incharge of BJP in Delhi told HT that his party has always held Sikhs to be important and has worked for them.
Kuljit Nagra of Congress party said Delhi Sikhs historically have a strong connection with the Congress.