The spectacular victory of Punjab state Congress President in the Gurdaspur parliamentary by-election is a big jot to the advocates of cow politics across India.
Sunil Jakhar defeated the BJP candidate Swaran Salaraia by a huge margin of 193, 219 votes.
The by-election was caused by the death of sitting BJP MP Vinod Khanna – who represented the constituency for many years.
Though Jakhar’s victory can be attributed to multiple factors, such as the infighting within the BJP in Gurdaspur or that his party rules the state and it is normal for a ruling party to win by-elections with the help of official machinery, but his victory at a time when cow vigilantism continues to grow under BJP government in the centre is particularly significant.
Back in 2012 when Punjab was witnessing communal tension after carcasses of cows were found in a bone crushing mill in Joga, Jakhar had set a very different example by rising above competitive politics.
The then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal whose party Akali Dal remains a staunch ally of the BJP had asked the state legislature to give obituary to the dead cows. At this Jakhar – who was the Congress Legislature Party leader urged that obituary references also be made to the migrant workers who were killed in a factory building collapse. In April that year 23 workers had died when a blanket manufacturing factory building had collapsed in Jalandhar. Jakhar had also stated that the obituary references to cows amounted to “mockery” of the state assembly.
Although it is hard to predict whether the result of Gurdaspur by-election will have any impact on the fate of the BJP in the forthcoming assembly elections or the next general election, Jakhar’s win signifies the victory of those who have been consistently raising voice against violence of cow vigilantes and their Hindutva agenda.
One can hope that Jakhar being in the parliament will be in a better position to oppose forcefully the cow vigilantism and provide a solid alternative to the communal BJP.
Yes, the Congress especially in Punjab needs to do more to win back the confidence of the Sikh minority which has a case against the party for its involvement in the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, Jakhar’s progressive and secularist position on cow politics need to be recognized to underline people’s power to defeat nefarious designs of the sectarian forces through ballot.
Gurpreet Singh is a Canada- based journalist who publishes Radical Desi- a monthly magazine that covers alternative politics.