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The distinctive colours of the traditional Sikh turban have set apart major political rivals
As electioneering intensifies in Punjab in the run-up to polling on February 20 for the Assembly election, a new factor has emerged, adding colour to the political rivalry. The distinct colours of turbans, an intrinsic part of the Sikh religion and culture, are setting the tone for the polls as they are seen as symbols of political affiliation.
Due to restrictions imposed by the Election Commission for the pandemic, public gatherings across the State and even door-to-door campaigning have been low key affairs. However, the blue, yellow and white turbans among the crowds are a clear indication of support and affiliation.
The century-old Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is associated with the colour blue, the Aam Aadmi Party connects with yellow, while Congressmen favour white or light blue turbans.
The colour of turbans at political rallies and campaigning are a way of signifying the political narrative, besides a show of strength and display of alignment by the supporters of political parties.
Shiromani Akali Dal cadre initially were associated with black turbans as a mark of protest against the British during the ‘Morcha Chabian’, a campaign for the recovery of the keys of the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) treasury in the early 1920s. In later years, however, the SAD inclined towards the blue and orange (kesri), which is allied with the ‘Panthic’ (Sikhism) ideology, from the time when the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh created the ‘Khalsa panth’. A large section of Akali Dal cadre are now in the distinctive blue turbans as the election fever grips the State.
Bhagwant Mann, State president of AAP and Lok Sabha MP, who has been announced the party’s chief ministerial candidate, has led the party’s association with yellow, which party members assert symbolizes ‘revolution’. According to the party members, the colour is associated with basant, or spring, the season of renewal after winter. Besides, the song “Mera rang de Basanti chola …”, which was immortalised by Shaheed Bhagat Singh during the country’s freedom struggle has been an inspiration for the party. The AAP insists that there is a need for a revolution for economic and social freedom for different sections of the society in Punjab today.
Congress leaders and cadre have been traditionally sported white turbans to differentiate themselves from the Akali Dal. In Punjab Congress leaders including former President Giani Zail Singh, former Chief Ministers Pratap Singh Kairon and Beant Singh were mostly seen donning the white turban. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, was among those who wore a distinct light blue turban.