Jagmeet Singh set to play kingmaker as Justin Trudeau fails to get majority in Canada: Rise of pro-Khalistani leader Sikh leader may make India edgy

  • A relatively weakened Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is out to secure the support of smaller parties to form a government after winning the general election but falling short of a majority

  • This has paved the way for Indian-origin, New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh, a leftist former criminal defence lawyer and the first non-white leader of a federal political party in Canada to play 'kingmaker'

  • Although hailed as one of the rising superstars of Canadian politics, Singh shares a chequered history with India

A relatively weakened Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is out to secure the support of smaller parties to form a government after winning the general election but falling short of a majority. This has paved the way for Indian-origin,  New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh, a leftist former criminal defence lawyer and the first non-white leader of a federal political party in Canada to play 'kingmaker' to form the next government.

 Jagmeet Singh set to play kingmaker as Justin Trudeau fails to get majority in Canada: Rise of pro-Khalistani leader Sikh leader may make India edgy

Canadian leader Jagmeet Singh. AP

According to Times of India, Singh was quick to defend his position of forming a coalition, saying, "I’m hoping that Mr Trudeau respects the fact that there’s a minority government now, which means we've got a minority government now and there is work to be done."

Although the NDP had a disappointing night, as the number of seats it was projected to win was down sharply from the 2015 election, the party could exercise significant influence over Trudeau’s next government, reports Reuters.

Kingmaker Singh

In the recently concluded Canadian general election, the results of which were declared on Tuesday, the Liberal Party bagged 157 seats, the opposition Conservative 121, Bloc Quebecois 32, NDP 24, Green Party 3 and one Independent.

Trudeau would now require at least 13 legislators from his left-leaning rival parties to reach the 'magic number' of 170 to form a Liberal Party-led minority government in the 338-seat House of Commons. "The New Democratic Party is poised to play kingmaker in a minority parliament after Jagmeet Singh spearheaded a turnaround on the federal campaign trail that may have saved his leadership and pulled his party from the brink of irrelevance," the Toronto Star newspaper reported.

With 24 seats in its kitty, the NDP has lost nearly 50 percent of the seats it had won in 2015. The party, led by Thomas Mulcair, had won 44 seats, becoming the third-largest party in the House of Commons in 2015.

Despite the drop in seats, Singh in a celebratory speech on Tuesday said his party will now be "working hard" to deliver on the "priorities that Canadians have".

"When we get back to Ottawa, every single day we are in parliament, New Democrats are going to be working to make sure Canadians' lives are better," he was quoted as saying by globalnews.ca.

Singh said his party's elected officials will now head to Ottawa to tackle a number of issues, including taking "real and urgent action" on climate change, making life more affordable for Canadians and making sure the "super wealthy pay their fair share".

Singh, who was himself a prime ministerial contender, said he wants the NDP to play a "constructive" role in the new Parliament, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Singh said he wants the NDP to play a "constructive and positive role" in the new Parliament.

Who is Jagmeet Singh?

Jagmeet Singh is a Canadian lawyer and politician serving as leader of the NDP — the second-largest opposition party in Canada — since 2017 and as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the riding of Burnaby South since 2019.  He is known for wearing three-piece suits, and has been previously described as 'Trudeau’s worst nightmare".

As a politician, Singh caught the attention of many voters with his bespoke suits, colourful turbans and for being the first person from a visible minority to lead a federal party in Canada.

In January 2012, the Toronto Star named Singh one of Toronto's top 12 personalities to watch in 2012, calling Singh a trailblazer in Ontario politics. He was recognised by the World Sikh Organization of Canada in their 2012 list of honorees for being the first turbaned Sikh MPP in Ontario.

Although hailed as one of the rising superstars of Canadian politics, Singh shares a chequered history with India.

Anti-India sentiments 

Known for being an active critic of the Centre and aligning himself to the pro-Khalistan movement, a movement that wants to create an independent state for Sikh people through armed or political struggle, Singh has actively refused to condemn gurudwaras for displaying portraits of Talwinder Singh Parmar — the mastermind behind 1985 bombings of Air India flight 182.  When the CBC’s Terry Milewski pressed him on his views of the 1985 Air India bombing – one of the worst terrorist attacks in Canadian history – Singh refused to blame the bombing on Sikh extremists. “I don’t know who was responsible,” he said.

In an article in a Canadian publication, The Globe, Singh explained that the terrible persecution of the Sikhs inspired him to stand up for human rights. He likened violence against Sikhs in India post-Indira Gandhi's assassination to the pain and trauma inflicted by the residential schools – pain that carries through generations.

In 2013, India declined a visa to Singh, in the first-ever instance of a sitting member of a Western legislature being denied entry.  He was denied a visa while he was a member of the provincial parliament (MPP) in Ontario.

In 2016, the Ontario state assembly of Canada had recently passed a resolution terming the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as 'Sikh genocide' and state-sponsored annihilation of the Sikhs, which was introduced by Singh.

In 2017, he accused Indian diplomats of trying to sabotage the campaign by exerting pressure on members of the community, according to the Hindustan Times.

In 2018, Canadian media reported on a video showing the Indian-origin Sikh leader speaking at pro-Khalistan events in San Francisco and London, according to a Firstpost report. In the same year, during Justin Trudeau's unofficial visit to India was snubbed by the Centre as the delegation was received at the airport by a minister of state, not even a member of Narendra Modi’s cabinet. International and local observers that he was given the cold shoulder, over his ties between the Liberal Party and Khalistani separatists and extremists.

Singh was also found to have close links with a Canadian Sikh rapper known for promoting the need for 'Khalistan'. According to a report published in the web site of the daily Toronto Sun, the NDP leader has personal ties with Canadian Sikh rapper Chani Natt, who is known to glorify violence and promote an independent state of Khalistan.

This year, after the Centre announced its decision to revoke Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Jagmeet Singh has come down heavily on the government and said that he denounced what India has been doing to the people of Kashmir.

Addressing a small gathering in the run-up to the elections in the Canada, Singh "denounced what India was doing to the people of Kashmir." Speaking of communication blockade, Singh said: "They shut down cellphones, they shut down telephone services, they block the media."

The leader of the New Democratic Party said that he stood by the people of Kashmir in solidarity. "If there is any injustice against anyone, it's an injustice against our principles. I stand with people against this injustice that's happening," he said.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 23, 2019 16:03:23 IST