The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has put out advertisements in prominent national dailies to announce that it was naming the Barapulla flyover in the city after Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, a Sikh icon who wields influence among both Sikhs and Hindus. The move was made by the government in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of his martyrdom day.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, who was initially a Hindu ascetic and later converted to Sikhism after coming in contact with the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, is revered by both the Hindu and Sikh communities living in Punjab and other parts of the country.
Baba Banda Bahadur, following the orders of Guru Gobind Singh, had organised an army to fight the Mughals and established his authority in Punjab region before he was captured and brought to Delhi in 1715 where he was tortured and killed in public view.
The AAP government’s decision comes just a day after it put out full-page advertisements declaring that Punjabi language would be made compulsory in all government schools in the city. It also said at least one Punjabi teacher in every school was made compulsory and their salaries were also raised.
“The government’s decision follows several representations demanding to name the flyover after the legendary Sikh Warrior. History traces back his martyrdom at Mehrauli in Delhi,” said an official statement released by the party.
The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Gurdwara Shahidi Asthaan Baba Banda Singh Bahadur is situated at Mehrauli near the historic Qutab Minar in memory of his martyrdom.
Questions are now being asked whether the party is using its government in Delhi to extend its reach to the entire Punjabi community including both Sikhs and Hindus ahead of the crucial state elections in Punjab next year. Sikhs make about 4 per cent of Delhi’s population.
The party hopes to replicate its Lok Sabha success in Punjab when it won four out of the 13 seats in the state. Although it has not announced a chief ministerial candidate, AAP leader Ashutosh made it clear that Arvind Kejriwal, who leads the party’s government in Delhi, will not go to Punjab.
While the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal will be hoping for a record third shot at power, the AAP will face tough competition from the Congress, which has brought back Captain Amarinder Singh as its state president.