How diverting to see et’nic vote-broker Prem Vinning squatting at ground zero of the latest Liberal ‘open nomination’ debacle.
There was much soiling of undersilks in Vancouver South when the frontrunner, moderate Sikh candidate Barj Dhahan, mysteriously dropped out of contention, ceding the field to the fundamentalist-approved Harjit Sajjan.
Dhahan’s apoplectic supporters were left theatrically tearing up their membership cards and pointing to cagey old Vinning, past president of the fundie World Sikh Organization, as party HQ’s grubby-fingered orchestrator of it all.
If this is indeed the case, it’s an organizational triumph a long time in coming for the old meeting-stacker.
It’s been nearly a quarter century since Prem’s bus-stuffing acumen delivered the Lower Mainland Sikh vote to Jean Crouton’s 1990 leadership campaign. He has coasted on this victory as proof of his organizational prowess ever since, despite many subsequent failures to actually deliver his promised mobs to the polls.
Typical of his all-turban-no-cattle oeuvre were debacles like Christy Clark’s 2005 grab for the Vancouver mayoralty, cruelly cut short when she lost the NPA nomination to Sam Sullivan.
When Prem joined Team Christie, the NPA’s membership more than doubled, with some 3000 new members, including busloads of the usual suspects from local Sikh temples.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation: Not only did Prem’s legions of instant members fail to materialize on nomination day, the threat of an impending Indo takeover (cleverly bruited by Sullivan’s crew), was enough to galvanize the NPA’s old school membership, white old wrinklies from Point Grey and Kits, to hump their walkers out to the vote in record numbers.
The pasty old guard’s, er, fear of the dark allowed Sullivan to roll over Christy in a 69-vote heartbreaker.
Similarly in vain was Prem’s years-long crusade for a seat in the Senate—his reward for invaluable assistance to Crouton. The Sikh kingpin insisted it was only a matter of time; he was on the A-list of the PM’s intimates, the consummate Ottawa insider, etc.
All of which made Prem’s reception at one Liberal bunfest at the Museum of Civilization in the nineties all the more puzzling. The oleaginous powerbroker inexplicably found himself relegated to the cheap seats, barely in binocular range of Crouton’s table.
Prem finally managed to wave down a PMO thingy and asked him to secure him a minute with his old compadre the PM.
Comes the reply from Crouton, “Which one is he? Da one dat always wear da black turban?”
Still, Prem stood by his patron, and campaigned mightily when BC Senator Len Marchand’s seat came up for grabs in ’98, braunnosing Indo minister Herb Dhaliwal to reward a loyal party hack.
It was all for naught; the sinecure went to mine’n’wine tycoon Ross Fitzpatrick, longtime Crouton chum and undead party bagman.
Pissed at getting screwed out of his hard-earned reward, Prem began openly stumping for Paul Martin, telling anyone who would listen that Junior had secured his loyalty with the firm offer of one golden ticket to the Senate.
Who’da thunk that by 2001, the next time one of BC’s six Senate seats came up for grabs, Crouton would still be in the PMO? Certainly not Prem.
Yet so it was when Senator Ray Perrault reached his mandatory best before age of 75 and waddled from the Other Place.
Suddenly, Prem rediscovered his undying loyalty to Crouton. His abject obeisance to the PM at a Liberal shindig in Ottawa was a textbook shine-job. The Martinites were most unimpressed by the invertebrate display, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Alas, Crouton installed Liberal lifer Mobina Jaffer in Perrault’s pew at the ripe old age of 51, dashing Prem’s dreams once again. Martin appointed a single BC Senator, Larry Campbell, before the onset of the long, cold Harper years.
Now Prem pledges his dark talents to Princess Justin and eagerly eyes the 2018 retirement date of BC Senator Nancy Greene Raine. Hope lives once again!