The shadow of Sidhu Moose Wala‘s tragic killing loomed large over the Sangrur by-election. Though Moose Wala’s father Balkaur Singh Sidhu both refused to be a candidate of any part and also requested parties not to use the artist’s name in the elections, there’s no doubt that it played an important role in the election.
AAP, which faced flak for downgrading Moose Wala’s security, seems to have paid the price for the tragedy in the election.
CM Bhagwant Mann being seen as “weak” and under control of AAP’s “Delhi leadership” didn’t help matters. An image of Mann hanging from the side of a vehicle as AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal campaigned in Sangrur, went viral and sent a wrong signal.
On the other hand, Simranjit Mann’s supporters knew that this is the one chance for his revival and turned out in large numbers as he fought the election on an emotional plank.
The BJP putting up a surprisingly decent performance also harmed AAP. BJP fielded Congress turncoat Kewal Dhillon, who secured 10 percent votes, mainly due to his own base in Barnala and that of the Dhindsas in Lehra, besides some urban Hindu votes. Dhillon’s presence may have eaten into a chunk of AAP votes as well as those of his erstwhile party, the Congress.
Meanwhile SAD (Badal)’s move of fielding Kamaldeep Kaur Rajoana, sister of Beant Singh assassination convict Balwant Singh Rajoana backfired. The party stood fifth and secured only 6 percent votes. The Badals were accused of trying to divide Panthic votes by using the sister of someone who the Akal Takht has called a living Shaheed. Had the Badals not fielded Rajoana, Mann’s margin may have been higher. Some say that this decision by Badals could also have created some sympathy for Mann.
Mann’s win and the Badals’ defeat may now trigger a churn within Panthic politics. It is possible that now Badals’ rivals will now challenge their dominance over the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
Meanwhile, Mann’s win also comes at a time when there is increasing scrutiny of Sikh political voices. On Sunday 26 June, Sidhu Moose Wala’s latest song SYL was removed from YouTube in India.
In the song, he raises the issue of Punjab’s river waters, release of political prisoners and justice for 1984 victims. It had already got 2.7 crore views in less than three days and was top trending music video on YouTube world wide. Several Sikh handles on social media have also recently been banned in India.