Delhi Elections 2020: Congress fields Manmohan Singh to woo Punjabi voters in Rajouri Garden

Delhi polls: Manmohan Singh, 87, will seek votes for Congress candidate Amandeep Singh Sudan in Rajouri Garden assembly constituency, a seat won by the grand old party consecutively from 1993 to 2013.
The move by the Congress to field the former PM is to woo the Punjabi Hindu and Sikh communities who could influence the outcome in 25-28 assembly constituencies in Delhi. (ANI photo)
The move by the Congress to field the former PM is to woo the Punjabi Hindu and Sikh communities who could influence the outcome in 25-28 assembly constituencies in Delhi. (ANI photo)
Updated on Feb 04, 2020 11:54 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address his first election meeting in Delhi’s Punjabi-dominated constituency of Rajouri Garden on Tuesday.

Singh, 87, will seek votes for Congress candidate Amandeep Singh Sudan in Rajouri Garden assembly constituency, a seat won by the grand old party consecutively from 1993 to 2013.

The constituency was wrested from the Congress by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa in 2013. However, former journalist Jarnail Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won the seat in last Delhi elections in 2015.

Jarnail Singh resigned from the Delhi assembly in 2017 to contest the Punjab elections and Sirsa emerged victorious again in the subsequent by-poll.

The move by the Congress to field the former PM is to woo the Punjabi Hindu and Sikh communities who could influence the outcome in 25-28 assembly constituencies in Delhi. The Punjabis constitute 35% of about 1.5 crore voters in the city-state.

Apart from Rajouri Garden, the other Punjabi-dominated seats are Punjabi Bagh, Tilak Nagar, Janak Puri, Vikas Puri, Karol Bagh, Patel Nagar, Old Rajinder Nagar, New Rajinder Nagar, Moti Nagar, Naraina, Mayapuri, Hari Nagar, Subhash Nagar, Maharani Bagh, Lajpat Nagar, Malviya Nagar, Kalkaji and Shahdara.

This is not the first time that Singh will campaign in Delhi. He has addressed election rallies in the past well. The former prime minister has also regularly campaigned in Sikh-dominated Punjab.

The Congress is desperately trying to woo the Sikhs after the tumultuous events in the late 1980s. The community moved away from the Congress after Operation Blue Star, a military action to flush out militants from the Golden Temple complex in June 1984.

Operation Blue Star came after the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi in October by her Sikh bodyguards and the subsequent anti-Sikh riots and massacre in Delhi in which nearly 3000 Sikhs were killed.

Senior Congress leaders, including Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, are facing allegations of involvement in the riots though they have denied any role.

The rival parties have often attacked the Congress for denying justice to the victims of anti-Sikh violence and criticised the purported remarks of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

“When a great tree falls, the earth is bound to shake” is how Rajiv Gandhi is reported to have responded to the riots that broke after the assassination of his mother.

However, Congress leaders have repeatedly pointed out how Rajiv Gandhi after lighting his mother’s funeral pyre spent most of the night travelling from one riot-hit area to another, giving directions to the police and urging the rioters to stop the massacre.

Over the years, the top Congress leadership has also apologised for the riots.

Months before taking over as the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi in one of her election rallies in Chandigarh in January 1998 had said that she could understand the pain of Sikhs as she herself had lost her husband Rajiv Gandhi and mother-in-law that way.

“There is no use recalling what we have collectively lost. No words can balm that pain,” Sonia Gandhi had said.

Singh, the then prime minister, had apologised in Parliament in August 2005.

“I have no hesitation in apologising to the Sikh community. I apologise not only to the Sikh community but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution,” Singh had said.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said he shared the sentiments of both Sonia and Singh on the issue after there was widespread criticism that he did not apologise for the riots.

He went a step ahead and admitted that some Congressmen were probably involved in the riots and they have been punished for it.

Elections to the 70-member Delhi assembly will be held on February 8 and votes will be counted on February 11.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021