The election of Jagmeet Singh as federal NDP leader is not just his personal victory against heavy odds, but it also represents the defeat of right-wing forces both in Canada and India.
Singh became the first turbaned Sikh leader of any major political party in Canada on Sunday (October 1) by grabbing 35,266 votes out of total 65,782 cast by NDP members across the country.
He took more than 50 percent of the votes in the first ballot, defeating Ontario MP and heavyweight rival Charlie Angus, who collected 12,705 votes. Manitoba MP Niki Ashton won 11,374 votes, whereas Quebec MP Guy Caron bagged only 6,164 votes.
Singh, an Ontario MPP, is now a candidate for the post of prime minister. He made history in a country where Sikhs and other South Asian communities were disfranchised in 1907.
Many political pundits were doubtful about the chances of Singh getting elected because of his religious background. Since the NDP relies heavily on labour unions, many were skeptical over him getting enough union support to win the leadership.
They speculated that Angus would take away most union members' votes. Others thought that Singh had no chance in Quebec where secularists won't vote for anyone with a strong religious identity. Then there were those even within the NDP who thought that Canada is not ready yet to accept someone with a turban and facial hair as their future leader. In the end, Singh proved all the apprehensions wrong.
He has been working aggressively by criss-crossing Canada taking along not only his Sikh compatriots but also many others. After all, he had more endorsements than others in the race.
The growing momentum in favour of Singh has caused great anxiety among right-wing groups. There was a verbal attack on him at a public event by a white woman who is reportedly associated with an alt-right movement. He has been under attack from white nationalists on social media, too.
If this were not enough, right-wing forces in India and their apologists in Canada also tried to discredit Singh. He previously brought a motion in the Ontario legislature describing the anti-Sikh pogrom in India during 1984 as “genocide”. Thousands of Sikhs were murdered following the assassination of the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The political goons belonging to the slain leader’s Congress party organized violence against innocent Sikhs in different parts of India.
On another occasion, Singh raised the issue of political prisoners in India and also criticized the Indian government for growing violence against minorities and so-called untouchables under right-wing Hindu nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi. For these reasons, Singh was denied visa by the Indian government.
During his campaign those owing allegiance to the Indian establishment frequently tried to brand him as Sikh separatist and discouraged people within the South Asian community from donating money to his campaign or voting for him.
In spite of these challenges, Singh remained calm and focused on his election. His message that he believes in fair trade and not free trade resonated with people who have had enough of Trump or Modi.
Singh’s wonderful victory raises hope for those who want the world to be free from bigotry and oppression.More