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Not one of its leaders elected since 1999, SAD (Amritsar) still contests polls demanding Khalistan

Headed by former MP Simranjit Singh Mann, a retired IPS officer, SAD (Amritsar) is the only party which still contests the elections in Punjab with demand for a separate Khalistan.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Chandigarh |
Updated: January 22, 2022 4:05:30 am
SAD, Chandigarh news, Chandigarh, Indian express, Indian express news, Punjab newsThe Dal Khalsa leaders said even while breaking his silence, Kejriwal has concealed that his government has rejected Bhullar's file thrice in 2020.

From a high of winning six of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab in 1989, to being reduced to a vote share of 0.3% — much lower than NOTA’s 0.7% — in 2017, hasn’t yet daunted the spirits of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), which has fielded 86 candidates for the February 20 Assembly polls.

Headed by former MP Simranjit Singh Mann, a retired IPS officer, SAD (Amritsar) is the only party which still contests the elections in Punjab with demand for a separate Khalistan.

This even as Dal Khalsa and some other separatist outfits that used to contest elections, no more believe in the electoral system.

The party’s biggest success came in 1989 parliamentary polls, when it won six Lok Sabha seats. Among the victors was Simranjit Mann, who at that time was in jail.
As Punjab headed towards the Assembly polls in 1992, the SAD (Amritsar) was considered a frontrunner. It was before the militants gave a call to boycott the polls.

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The party could win just one Lok Sabha seat — Sangrur — in 1999 general elections. Since then it has been a constant slide downhill for the party, which failed to secure any seat in Punjab in successive Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
The party’s sole victor in 1999 was Simranjit Mann, who had entered Lok Sabha defeating former chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala with margin of 8600. Mann managed to secure a little more than 48,000 votes from Sangrur in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The seat was won for a second consecutive term by Aaam Aadmi Party’s Bhagwant Mann, who is now the opposition party’s chief ministerial face.
The repeated losses havem, however, failed to deter the party from testing electoral waters. The SAD (Amritsar) has already fielded 86 candidates for the February 20 Assembly elections, the figure much higher that the 54 it had fielded in 2017. In his 80s now, Simranjit Mann is contesting elections from Amargarh in Malerkotla. His son, Emaan Singh Mann, is party candidate from the Fatehgarh Sahib.

Simranjit Mann, in a chat with The Indian Express, talks about party’s agenda.
Excerpts What are the issues you are raising in this election?

Our agenda is pro-Punjab. We demand the implementation of riparian laws. Chandigarh should be given to Punjab and Centre should stop violating the rights of Punjab. We have seen how anti-farm laws were introduced.

Yours is the only party which demands a separate state of Khalistan and also contests elections.

We have an organisational structural and we are a cadre-based party, which is must to contest elections seriously. We believe there is nothing wrong in raising your demand with democratic means. We are doing that. I can’t speak for others who have decided not to contest.

Does not winning elections make the issues you raise less relevant?

Contesting or not contesting elections do not sideline the real issues or make them irrelevant. There is nothing wrong in believing in democratic system and contesting.

During the farmers’ agitaion against the agri laws, the protesters were termed as Khalistanis, which they vehemently denied. Do you see a fallout on your demand?

There were all kinds of people in the farmers’ protest. There were Khalsiatni farmers and farmers from other ideologies. There were also Hindu brothers. It was a common issue. No one raises objection when one propagates Ram Rajya. Why should there be objections when one asks for Khalsa Raj of Guru Gobind Singh? We face oppression when we ask for the Khalsa Raj, which is against caste system and pitches for equal rights.

Why is your vote bank decreasing ?

You see how several leaders quit their respective parties and joined BJP soon after the ED raids. Our party suffered the worst. Punjab Police’s atrocities on our party leaders and workers has affected our vote bank. Both the Congress and the Akali governments targeted our party and leaders. Many of our leaders have been killed. Our workers were threatened and forced to step back from party activities. But now that fear is no more. Farmers’ protest has also played role in fighting this fear. Now, we are upbeat and in high spirits for the upcoming elections.

Why do you think it is important to contest elections ?

We believe to use all peaceful tools to raise our demands whether it is legislative or judicial. We are not afraid. We have to carry forward our demands and now people are understanding.

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