Indo-Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh has announced a bid for the leadership of the New Democratic Party, a move that could propel him to national politics in the country.
Supporters young and old came out on Monday night at Brampton, Ontario to hear him make his announcement. The venue, a local restaurant called Bombay Palace, held special meaning to the audience as it was the venue where Singh held an election party when he first entered provincial politics. He is currently the deputy leader of the provincial NDP.
If the 38-year-old turban-wearing Singh wins, he’ll be the first non-white and first person of Indian origin to lead a major federal party. His speech last night was trilingual: French, English and Punjabi with some indigenous greetings. Large numbers of Sikhs too turned out to support him and cries of ‘Bole so Nihaal’ resonated at the venue.
Reporters noted the enthusiasm of his supporters, especially ‘South Asian twenty somethings and teenagers…dancing the night away.” Singh, child of migrant parents – his father is a doctor – who was born in Scarborough near Toronto has also acquired a reputation of being a style icon, frequently featured in fashion magazines who have noted his penchant for sharp suits and shoes. Buzzfeed announced he was the “most stylish politician in Canada by like a million kilometres.” Singh had once before been turned down for a visa to India in November 2013. Singh has repeatedly spoken against the killings of Sikhs in 1984 and has used the word ‘genocide’ to describe them.
Winning the leadership of the left-leaning NDP is not going to be easy. He’s going to get push back from Quebec, one of the strongholds of the NDP, who are anti religious symbols and because of their perception that Singh doesn’t know French. He has received endorsements from elected provincial politicians but so far no sitting MP has backed him.
His competitors for the leadership of the Federal NDP are all elected members of parliament and labour leaders with a support base among labour, which will be key.
If however Singh makes it, he could be on the way to higher things. The NDP lags behind the ruling Liberal party and the Conservatives in Parliament but has made great strides in recent years. On Monday, Singh invoked the memory of the late Jack Layton, a former Federal leader of the NDP. It was Layton who led the NDP to becoming a major party by picking up a record number of seats in 2011.