Sikh Takes Top Post in British Columbia

Article excerpt

TORONTO - Ujjal Dosanjh, the one-time victim of a political attack that left him hospitalized with 80 stitches in the head, today will be sworn in as the first prime minister of a Canadian province of east Indian extraction.

Mr. Dosanjh, born in India's predominantly Sikh state of Punjab, says he counts Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi among his heroes.

The 52-year-old lawyer won the top political post in British Columbia, Canada's westernmost province, in a hard-fought race for the leadership of the already ruling New Democratic Party after its previous leader resigned in the face of a corruption scandal.

Analysts say that in choosing Mr. Dosanjh, the NDP has chosen a person so well regarded for his integrity that even voters utterly disillusioned with the long-ruling party might support him.

"He's the kind of person most British Columbians admire," said Vancouver political commentator Rafe Mair. "He's a gentleman, and everyone who knows him respects him."

He earned that respect in part with his response to the 1985 attack with an iron pipe by religious extremists angry at his condemnation of their terror-based campaign for independence in Punjab, a predominantly Sikh state.

"I will continue speaking out," he told reporters from his hospital bed. "There is nothing that will stop me until I achieve my goal of seeing peace and harmony in our community."

Mr. Dosanjh takes command of Canada's third-largest province at a grim time. Government mismanagement has left it economically lagging behind most others, with high unemployment rates and a $1 billion deficit. …