ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Amritpal Singh to Contest From Khadoor Sahib: What Will be its Impact? 4 Points

Amritpal Singh's decision to contest the Lok Sabha polls was announced by his mother Balwinder Kaur.

Published
Elections
6 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large

In a move that is being seen as a gamechanger in Punjab politics, jailed Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh's family announced that he will be contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha election from Punjab's Khadoor Sahib seat. The announcement was made by Amritpal Singh's mother Balwinder Kaur on 26 April after a meeting with her son.

Head of the organisation Waris Punjab De, Amritpal Singh is facing charges under the National Security Act and has been imprisoned in Assam's Dibrugarh for close to a year.

"He was reluctant and said he is not interested in electoral politics. However, he agreed to the demands of his supporters that he contest the elections," Balwinder Kaur said.

The announcement came barely a couple of days after Amritpal Singh's lawyer, Rajdev Singh Khalsa, said that Amritpal Singh had agreed to fight the Lok Sabha elections. However, the preacher's family said that they need to speak to him first before confirming the decision. This finally happened on 26 April.

There are four aspects to this.

Amritpal Singh to Contest From Khadoor Sahib: What Will be its Impact? 4 Points

  1. 1. Why is Amritpal Singh's decision Important?

    Amritpal Singh is allegedly a votary of Khalistan or a separate Sikh homeland. Contesting elections under the Indian Constitution is, therefore, a significant development from this perspective.

    However, he isn't the first pro-Khalistan leader to contest elections. The present MP from Sangrur Simranjit Singh Mann also says that he is "striving for Khalistan" using "non-violent" and constitutional means.

    If Amritpal Singh wins, he will also have to take an oath under the Indian Constitution like Mann has done the three times he was elected.

    This would set him apart from civil society organisations who also adhere to non-violence but stay away from electoral politics. It will also set him apart from the 2020 Referendum strand of pro-Khalistan activism that's mostly present in the diaspora and led by Sikhs for Justice.

    Amritpal Singh would be going on Simranjit Singh Mann's path in another respect. Mann too contested the 1989 Lok Sabha elections from jail. Just Amritpal Singh has been imprisoned away from Punjab in Assam, Simranjit Singh Mann had to spend five years in prison in Bihar's Bhagalpur.

    Of course, Mann's incarceration was much longer and he was subjected to gruesome forms of torture in captivity.

    The timing of the polling day is also significant as it would be taking place on the eve of anniversary of Operation Bluestar, a deeply traumatic event for many Sikhs.
    Expand
  2. 2. Why Khadoor Sahib?

    Amritpal Singh's village Jallupur Khera falls in Baba Bakala tehsil of Amritsar district. This comes under the Khadoor Sahib Lok Sabha seat. So this is the most obvious reason, but it is not the only one.

    Khadoor Sahib is known as a Panthic seat. The influence of Sikh religio-politics is strongest in Khadoor Sahib compared to all other seats in Punjab.

    Simranjit Singh Mann also won the 1989 elections from the Tarn Taran seat. The seat ceased to exist after delimitation and much of the same areas have now come under the newly created Khadoor Sahib seat.

    Given its Panthic nature, this seat has been a bastion of the Shiromani Akali Dal. The Congress has won the seat only twice in the last 50 years - 1992, a questionable election that was boycotted by most Akali factions, and in 2019.

    The reason for this domination is also demographic. It is one of the most rural Lok Sabha seats in Punjab and also the one with the highest Sikh majority.

    Another interesting aspect about Khadoor Sahib is that it is the only Lok Sabha seat in Punjab that comprises segments from each of the three regions in the state - six segments in Majha, two in Doaba and one in Malwa.

    Expand
  3. 3. What Impact Will Amritpal Singh's Entry Have on Existing Political Players?

    Amritpal Singh's entry will put the ball in the court of the SAD (Badal), Simranjit Mann's SAD (Amritsar), Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and BJP in different ways.

    SAD (Badal)

    Sukhbir Badal may now be forced to support Amritpal Singh for the sake of Panthic unity. SAD (Badal) was yet to declare its candidate from Khadoor Sahib. The names of senior leaders Bikram Singh Majithia and Virsa Singh Valtoha were doing the rounds.

    Now, it is unlikely that the SAD will field a strong candidate against Amritpal Singh. It would then be accused of betraying the Panthic cause, a tag that it has been trying to shed since the 2015 sacrilege cases.

    In fact it is possible that the SAD may give support to Amritpal Singh in the seat.

    The SAD anyway wouldn't have been able to win with Amritpal in the fray so the best option for the party would be to win some goodwill among Panthic voters by backing the preacher. This may possibly help the party in other seats.

    SAD (Amritsar)

    Like Sukhbir Badal, Simranjit Mann too may be compelled to give support to Amritpal Singh's candidature. His party had already declared its candidate from Khadoor Sahib. They may now have to withdraw the candidate.

    While Amritpal Singh may now be coming closer to Mann's brand of politics, the latter is the most prominent player in this space, having remained steadfast on this political line for over three decades. Mann has so far spoken out in favour of Amritpal Singh but it remains to be seen whether equations change after the preacher's political plunge.

    It is possible that Amritpal's entry could create some buzz around SAD (Amritsar)'s more prominent candidates in the fray in this election - such as Simranjit Mann in Sangrur and Lakha Sidhana in Bathinda.

    Amritpal Singh's decision to contest the Lok Sabha polls was announced by his mother Balwinder Kaur.

    Amritpal Singh's aide Papalpreet Singh used to be in Simranjit Singh Mann's party. 

    Congress

    For the Congress, it would be a different kind of dilemma - whether to field a strong candidate or a not-so-strong one. The names of Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjeet Singh, his son and Sultanpur Lodhi MLA Rana Inder Pratap and former Khadoor Sahib MLA Ramanjit Sikki were doing the rounds so far.

    Rana Gurjeet in particular would be a strong candidate.

    AAP has already fielded minister Laljit Bhullar.

    Both AAP and Congress would be depending a great deal on Dalit and Hindu voters in the seat. Therefore Congress puts up a strong candidate like Rana Gurjeet, it runs the risk of splitting the anti-Amritpal vote.

    In Simranjit Mann's seat Sangrur, the Congress has cleverly fielded its most pro-Panthic face Sukhpal Singh Khaira. Some say it is a way of harming Mann and helping AAP which is the Congress' ally in Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh and Gujarat but its main rival in Punjab.

    BJP

    For the BJP, Amritpal contesting is both an opportunity and a risk. The party's assessment is that the move could push urban Hindu voters further towards the BJP.

    "It is a national election. With forces like these raising their head, people of Punjab as a whole - not just Hindus - will see PM Narendra Modi as the only one who can guarantee security," a BJP functionary involved in the party's Punjab campaign told The Quint.

    However, the BJP is still facing a strong pushback among rural Sikh voters and Amritpal's emergence is only likely to increase the gap between this section and the party.

    Expand
  4. 4. What Does This Mean for Amritpal Singh's Supporters?

    Waris Punjab De faced a massive crackdown after the Ajnala violence in 2023. Amritpal Singh and much of his core team are in jail and many other supporters have gone inactive or are keeping a low profile.

    By entering the electoral fray, Amritpal Singh may have given his supporters a platform to mobilise and raise the issues he had been raising - Sikh identity, drug menace, Punjab's riparian rights and activities of Christian missionaries.

    The move can also be seen as means to revive his movement and show its strength on the ground. At the time of the crackdown, critics of Amritpal Singh said that the absence of any large scale protests following his arrest showed that he was more of a social media phenomenon.

    The Khadoor Sahib election is being seen as a means for Amritpal Singh to show his support on the ground.

    In the next few days, watch out for the Congress and SAD candidate announcements.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Why is Amritpal Singh's decision Important?

Amritpal Singh is allegedly a votary of Khalistan or a separate Sikh homeland. Contesting elections under the Indian Constitution is, therefore, a significant development from this perspective.

However, he isn't the first pro-Khalistan leader to contest elections. The present MP from Sangrur Simranjit Singh Mann also says that he is "striving for Khalistan" using "non-violent" and constitutional means.

If Amritpal Singh wins, he will also have to take an oath under the Indian Constitution like Mann has done the three times he was elected.

This would set him apart from civil society organisations who also adhere to non-violence but stay away from electoral politics. It will also set him apart from the 2020 Referendum strand of pro-Khalistan activism that's mostly present in the diaspora and led by Sikhs for Justice.

Amritpal Singh would be going on Simranjit Singh Mann's path in another respect. Mann too contested the 1989 Lok Sabha elections from jail. Just Amritpal Singh has been imprisoned away from Punjab in Assam, Simranjit Singh Mann had to spend five years in prison in Bihar's Bhagalpur.

Of course, Mann's incarceration was much longer and he was subjected to gruesome forms of torture in captivity.

The timing of the polling day is also significant as it would be taking place on the eve of anniversary of Operation Bluestar, a deeply traumatic event for many Sikhs.
ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Why Khadoor Sahib?

Amritpal Singh's village Jallupur Khera falls in Baba Bakala tehsil of Amritsar district. This comes under the Khadoor Sahib Lok Sabha seat. So this is the most obvious reason, but it is not the only one.

Khadoor Sahib is known as a Panthic seat. The influence of Sikh religio-politics is strongest in Khadoor Sahib compared to all other seats in Punjab.

Simranjit Singh Mann also won the 1989 elections from the Tarn Taran seat. The seat ceased to exist after delimitation and much of the same areas have now come under the newly created Khadoor Sahib seat.

Given its Panthic nature, this seat has been a bastion of the Shiromani Akali Dal. The Congress has won the seat only twice in the last 50 years - 1992, a questionable election that was boycotted by most Akali factions, and in 2019.

The reason for this domination is also demographic. It is one of the most rural Lok Sabha seats in Punjab and also the one with the highest Sikh majority.

Another interesting aspect about Khadoor Sahib is that it is the only Lok Sabha seat in Punjab that comprises segments from each of the three regions in the state - six segments in Majha, two in Doaba and one in Malwa.

What Impact Will Amritpal Singh's Entry Have on Existing Political Players?

Amritpal Singh's entry will put the ball in the court of the SAD (Badal), Simranjit Mann's SAD (Amritsar), Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and BJP in different ways.

SAD (Badal)

Sukhbir Badal may now be forced to support Amritpal Singh for the sake of Panthic unity. SAD (Badal) was yet to declare its candidate from Khadoor Sahib. The names of senior leaders Bikram Singh Majithia and Virsa Singh Valtoha were doing the rounds.

Now, it is unlikely that the SAD will field a strong candidate against Amritpal Singh. It would then be accused of betraying the Panthic cause, a tag that it has been trying to shed since the 2015 sacrilege cases.

In fact it is possible that the SAD may give support to Amritpal Singh in the seat.

The SAD anyway wouldn't have been able to win with Amritpal in the fray so the best option for the party would be to win some goodwill among Panthic voters by backing the preacher. This may possibly help the party in other seats.

SAD (Amritsar)

Like Sukhbir Badal, Simranjit Mann too may be compelled to give support to Amritpal Singh's candidature. His party had already declared its candidate from Khadoor Sahib. They may now have to withdraw the candidate.

While Amritpal Singh may now be coming closer to Mann's brand of politics, the latter is the most prominent player in this space, having remained steadfast on this political line for over three decades. Mann has so far spoken out in favour of Amritpal Singh but it remains to be seen whether equations change after the preacher's political plunge.

It is possible that Amritpal's entry could create some buzz around SAD (Amritsar)'s more prominent candidates in the fray in this election - such as Simranjit Mann in Sangrur and Lakha Sidhana in Bathinda.

Amritpal Singh's decision to contest the Lok Sabha polls was announced by his mother Balwinder Kaur.

Amritpal Singh's aide Papalpreet Singh used to be in Simranjit Singh Mann's party. 

Congress

For the Congress, it would be a different kind of dilemma - whether to field a strong candidate or a not-so-strong one. The names of Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjeet Singh, his son and Sultanpur Lodhi MLA Rana Inder Pratap and former Khadoor Sahib MLA Ramanjit Sikki were doing the rounds so far.

Rana Gurjeet in particular would be a strong candidate.

AAP has already fielded minister Laljit Bhullar.

Both AAP and Congress would be depending a great deal on Dalit and Hindu voters in the seat. Therefore Congress puts up a strong candidate like Rana Gurjeet, it runs the risk of splitting the anti-Amritpal vote.

In Simranjit Mann's seat Sangrur, the Congress has cleverly fielded its most pro-Panthic face Sukhpal Singh Khaira. Some say it is a way of harming Mann and helping AAP which is the Congress' ally in Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh and Gujarat but its main rival in Punjab.

BJP

For the BJP, Amritpal contesting is both an opportunity and a risk. The party's assessment is that the move could push urban Hindu voters further towards the BJP.

"It is a national election. With forces like these raising their head, people of Punjab as a whole - not just Hindus - will see PM Narendra Modi as the only one who can guarantee security," a BJP functionary involved in the party's Punjab campaign told The Quint.

However, the BJP is still facing a strong pushback among rural Sikh voters and Amritpal's emergence is only likely to increase the gap between this section and the party.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What Does This Mean for Amritpal Singh's Supporters?

Waris Punjab De faced a massive crackdown after the Ajnala violence in 2023. Amritpal Singh and much of his core team are in jail and many other supporters have gone inactive or are keeping a low profile.

By entering the electoral fray, Amritpal Singh may have given his supporters a platform to mobilise and raise the issues he had been raising - Sikh identity, drug menace, Punjab's riparian rights and activities of Christian missionaries.

The move can also be seen as means to revive his movement and show its strength on the ground. At the time of the crackdown, critics of Amritpal Singh said that the absence of any large scale protests following his arrest showed that he was more of a social media phenomenon.

The Khadoor Sahib election is being seen as a means for Amritpal Singh to show his support on the ground.

In the next few days, watch out for the Congress and SAD candidate announcements.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More
×
×