A new political force has emerged in the capital. United by the rage against the ruling party, Delhi’s Sikhs have cornered the Congress with its back to the wall.
The acquittal of 1984 Sikh riots accused Sajjan Kumar, the government’s failure to secure the relapse of Sarabjit Singh, and the upholding of the death sentence of Delhi bomb blast accused Devinderpal Singh Bhullar have inflamed Sikh sentiments. All these factors ignited vehement protests and near-riot situations in many parts of Delhi. Sikhs protesting Sajjan’s exoneration besieged the Prime Minister’s office on Race Course Road and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s home.
Leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Badal (SAD, which made a spectacular entry into the Delhi’s factitious political scene in January by winning the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections, led the protestors. The SAD defeated the Congress-backed Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi). The DSGMC is the second most powerful Sikh body in the country after Amritsar’s Akal Takth. Despite the last minute attempts on part of the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh-a Sikh himself-to mollify the Sikh sentiment on Sarabjeet’s murder in Lahore, its political implications found reverberations in Delhi.
Bhullar’s sentencing brought out further ire, with Sikhs submitting a signature campaign to the President. It spurred protests by Sikhs across the globe: a fact that has further emboldened Sikhs in the capital. Meanwhile, the BJP, the SAD ally in Punjab, is cashing in on Sikh anger against the Congress.
Before Delhi goes to the polls, Sikh politicians foresee such an alliance happening. The SAD (B)’s Delhi unit chief Manjeet Singh says, “The BJP knows the strength that SAD (B) has gained in the DSGMC elections. They need to give us an appropriate share in the Vidhan Sabha seats.” Four weeks before the elections were due, SAD chief and Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and deputy chief minister of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal, set up camp in Delhi accompanied by key strategist Bikram Singh Majithia along with dozens of party MLAs. Sukhbir and his wife, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, MP, campaigned in Sikh dominated areas of Delhi.