In Canada’s general election held on Monday, incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party managed to hold on to power, although it lost majority in the country’s parliament. The results are also said to have heralded an opportunity for Indian-origin leader Jagmeet Singh, who would now play a kingmaker role while Trudeau scouts for coalition partners.
Who is Jagmeet Singh?
A criminal lawyer by training, Singh was born and raised in Canada and has been the leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) since 2017. The kirpan-wearing Sikh is known for wearing three-piece suits, and has been previously described as “Trudeau’s worst nightmare”.
Although a rising figure in Canadian politics, Singh also has a chequered history with India.
In the past, Singh has called self-determination to be a “basic right” in Punjab, has attended pro-Khalistan rallies, and has accused the Indian government of “initiating a genocidal campaign against the Sikh minority”. He has described the events following Operation Bluestar as an “attempt to extinguish the Sikh community”.
In 2013, India declined a visa to Singh, a rare instance in which a sitting member of a Western legislature was denied entry.
In 2016, Singh introduced a resolution in Ontario’s Assembly to describe the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as a “genocide”. Although defeated then, the same resolution was passed by Trudeau’s Liberal Party the following year.
While running for the NDP leadership, Singh accused Indian intelligence agencies of trying to subvert his campaign. Soon after getting elected in 2017, Singh refused to denounce Talwinder Singh Parmar, the terrorist mastermind behind the Air India Flight 182 bombing which killed 329 people.
A key role for Jagmeet Singh in 2019
In Monday’s election, Singh emerges as kingmaker despite polls showing the NDP losing almost half its tally of 44 seats that it won in the 2015 elections.
Despite being relegated to the fourth position, the NDP’s support from now on would be crucial for Trudeau’s minority government to remain in power and pass key legislation. The NDP is expected to push Trudeau’s policies further to the left.
Canada election results: Bittersweet victory for Justin Trudeau
Although Trudeau’s Liberal Party retained power, its seat share fell from 177 in the previous election to a projected 156 at present, falling 14 seats below a majority.
Trudeau, who enjoyed significant popularity when first elected, was mired in controversies towards the end of his term.
In 2018, Trudeau’s state visit to India was criticised for several gaffes. Indian authorities were miffed by the invitation sent to extremist Jaspal Atwal for a dinner reception, and pictures of Trudeau’s posing in multiple Indian attire were ill-received.
This year, Trudeau was embroiled in a major ethics scandal, in which he was accused of favouring the Canadian multinational SNC-Lavalin by trying to unduly influence a former minister to go soft on the firm during a criminal investigation. Trudeau’s alleged role in the scam is said to have caused major damage to his popularity.
Last month, the leader’s image took a further beating, as pictures showing a younger Trudeau wearing ‘brownface’ makeup went viral. Trudeau thereafter repeatedly apologised to the Canadian public.
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