Punjab Police Director General (DG) Gaurav Yadav (C) speaks with officials and police officers as he inspects the site where Shiv Sena leader Sudhir Suri was shot dead while he was protesting in front of a temple by an unidentified assailant, in Amritsar on November 4, 2022. - 58 year-old Sudhir Suri, self-styled leader of a radical religious group Hindu Shiv Sena was shot several times in northern Amritsar city where Sikh faiths holiest shrine, The Golden Temple, is located. (Photo by Narinder NANU / AFP)

A rightwing Hindu leader was shot dead in Amritsar on Friday and its impact was expected in faraway Gujarat, where state polls are scheduled to be held next month.

Sudhir Suri, who headed an outfit called the Shiv Sena, had police protection but the attacker was successful in landing at least two shots that killed him. East Punjab is ruled by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which displaced the Congress from power there in March.

A major contender in the two-stage races in BJP-ruled Gujarat, AAP is challenging the Congress for the second spot, if not the top job.

The fatal bridge collapse in Morbi last week and its offers of cheap electricity in the state with the highest energy tariff were seen as AAP’s strong suits to thwart the BJP’s stranglehold in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

Suri’s killing in an AAP-ruled state is expected to spin the narrative against the challenger.

Suri, a Hindutva right wing leader, was killed on a busy street in Amritsar in an attack that was caught on camera while there were over a dozen cops around him.

Leader of a local outfit that uses the name Shiv Sena Taksali, Suri was holding a protest outside a temple against its management when at least five shots were fired from a pistol, allegedly by a local shopkeeper, according to NDTV.

The killing comes just months after the murder, in May, of another prominent person with police security — singer Sidhu Moosewala — raising questions on Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s Aam Aadmi Party government, which was formed in March.

Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma was among the first leaders to react: “The law and order situation has completely broken down in the state.”

State Congress chief Amarinder Singh ‘Raja’ tweeted: “Law and order is deteriorating and going from bad to worse. Congress condemns murderous attack on Shiv Sena leader in Amritsar. Political differences apart, violence is unacceptable. Culprits must be brought to book.”

Sudhi Suri’s murder is being likened to a series of killings of right-wing or religious leaders, most of them from Hinduva outfits, in 2016 and 2017, when the Akali Dal-BJP and the Congress were in power at different times.

In October 2017, Ludhiana RSS leader Ravinder Gosain, 60, was shot dead in the eighth such incident in the state in about a year’s time. In June that year, Christian pastor Sultan Masih was shot dead, while others killed in that series of attacks were Dera Sacha Sauda followers in Ludhiana, a leader of an organisation called Hindu Takhat, also in Ludhiana, and an RSS leader, retired Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja, in Jalandhar, NDTV said.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Suri had got into an argument with some men from the management of Gopal Mandir near Majitha Road — one of the busiest places in Amritsar — over alleged sacrilege of idols.

He was live on Facebook barely an hour before the attack, showing some older idols “shamelessly dumped in garbage”.

“We will not tolerate such sacrilege, even if by fellow Hindus,” he said in that video.

When he was shot, he was on a sit-in on the street, sitting next to an associate who was seen firing back at the attacker from a revolver.

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