Manmohan Singh a ‘non-issue’ in home state Punjab

April 12th, 2009 - 11:29 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, April 12 (IANS) The Congress party’s naming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as its candidate for the top political job again is hardly making a difference to the Lok Sabha election campaign in his home state Punjab.

Even though Punjab is the only Sikh majority state in the country, the Punjab Congress is not capitalising on the fact that Manmohan Singh is the first Sikh prime minister. It is concentrating on state-level issues instead.

“No doubt he is a Sikh and with roots in Punjab. But he has hardly done any politics in Punjab. Though the Sikh community acknowledges that the Congress made an eminent Sikh prime minister, only a small fraction of this will turn into votes for the party,” a senior Congress legislator told IANS on condition of anonymity.

“There are other issues concerning people and the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) misgovernance is the biggest one,” he added.

Horticulturist Bhagwant Singh told IANS: “Manmohan Singh is an eminent person and has done well as prime minister too. But people in Punjab are more concerned about local issues.”

Manmohan Singh, an economist by profession who became prime minister in May 2004, has his roots in Punjab. His family migrated from Pakistan after India’s partition in 1947. It settled in Amritsar where he studied and started working.

He later shifted to Chandigarh to join Panjab University where he became a professor at the young age of 32.

None of that is getting a mention in the campaign. Instead, the Congress has been at the receiving end of the Sikh ire over the nomination in Delhi of Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar - both accused of involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The extent to which this anger has dissipated after the party withdrew the nominations remains to be seen.

The Akalis and Sikh organisations tried to corner the Congress on this issue.

“Being a Sikh, Manmohan Singh should have put his foot down when Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were given the Lok Sabha ticket by the Congress,” Punjab cabinet minister and BJP leader Manoranjan Kalia said.

At times, there have been demands from Congress leaders that Manmohan Singh should contest the Lok Sabha poll from Amritsar or any other constituency in Punjab.

But the prime minister, a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam for a few years, has not committed himself to contesting from the state.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at

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