Punjabi get-togethers in Canada are of a typical nature. Related and acquainted men and women get together at someone’s place for dinner. Men and women usually sit separately.
I don’t quite know what happens in women’s side, but men usually drink. New arrivals into Canada are asked random questions about their experience along with oodles of advice on everything. The somehow the discussion always turns to politics; Punjab politics in general.
Last week I happened to attend one such gathering. People usually talked about:
1. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his reputation as a great economist, his humbleness, his silence on recent 2G scam and the fact that he is a Sikh and hence a matter of pride for all Punjabis.
2. Doomsday prediction for Akali Dal Badal, retirement of Prakash Singh Badal, incapability, arrogance and stupidity of Sukhbir Singh Badal, and of course rise of Manpreet Singh Badal and with speculations about his political future.
3. Operation Bluestar (yes people still talk about it passionately), Indira Gandhi and state of Sikhism after 1984.
Mixture of these things create a perfect platform for hours of discussion. People rephrase their favorite points that they have learned from recent newspaper stories or something that has stuck with them for a long time. Example? One of the participants was very angry about sad state of Sikh leadership in Punjab. He said, “Indira Gandhi made a mistake and paid with her life. She should have made an offer to the Sikhs – ‘ I am ready to give you Khalistan. Just let me know who your leader is?” He argued that in this situation Sikhs would have fought with each other to death. There would have been no consensus among Sikhs for a leader.
Someone else made a point about Manpreet, “The guy stands a real chance. People are fed-up with SAD and Congress. Moreover Prakash Singh Badal was a different story. If nothing else, at least he was humble and seems harmless in newspapers or on TV. But Sukhbir lacks charisma. Punjab will never accept his as its leader. Anyway, its too late for him to be Chief Minister now. The curtains are down on his political future. I am not surprised that the lad has not noticed it.”
Manpreet was everybody’s favorite except for a couple. He was credited for being humble, educated, well meaning and brave to call it a day with SAD. Another factor that went into his favor was that people wanted change, the never had a credible third front. Now they have one.
But what bothers me the most is that people are worried about Punjab, yet they do not talk about real issues. They don’t talk about farmer suicides, sad state of education, healthcare, policing etc. They only talk about politicians and elections. No one has a clue as to why Manpreet is a better politician than Sukhbir (I dont doubt it I am only saying that people people don’t back their theory). They simply think that being nice and humble is all that it needs to get Punjab out of this mess.
Still unlike all the discussions that I have witnessed before, this one ended with a positive note. People seemed hopeful that Manpreet will bring a much needed change to Punjab politics. Even if he does not get too many tickets (not many thought he would in 2011, but then again 6-10 were not considered out of reach) he will definitely be playing a major role in forming the government. Although it was just a group of 7-8 laid back people, it still brought me hope. These people were not talking in isolations. They were also in touch with other Punjabis through different gatherings, emails, newspapers, TV channels etc. When it comes to politics, I believe optimism is the right word to describe state of mind of people of Punjab.