Chandigarh, May 10: Uncertainty continues over the continuation of Avtar Singh Makkar as president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee even after his yesterday’s meeting during the day here with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. The change has been in the air ever since the amendment to the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925 by the Parliament to debar Sehajdharis from voting in the election of its general house. While all persons who are covered under the definition of a Sikh can enlist as voters, only the Amritdhari Sikhs can contest election.
Exercise has been on for about a week with Shiromani Akali Dal chief and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal having discussed the issue with eight of the 15 members of the executive committee. The executive committee can’t remove the president but can accept the resignation.
Although the Act has been amended, the notification has to be submitted to the Supreme Court that had suspended the functioning of the newly elected general house following petition by the Sehajdhari Federation against the executive order by the Union Home ministry under which the voting right granted to the Sehajdharis in 1959 by an amendment in the Punjab Assembly was withdrawn. It was a procedural distortion that has been rectified with this amendment. The apex court had allowed the executive committee from the previous general house to function for the management of the shrines. This executive committee would be replaced once the general house is revived. No Act can be amended through executive order.
It may be mentioned that tension has been building up between Sukhbir and Makkar for some months as he had resisted the appointment of Harcharan Singh, a former banker, as the chief secretary, a new post. He had also at one stage sacked the auditor who is Sukhbir’s man but had to reverse the decision within hours.
Both Badal and Sukhbir have been holding discussions with party leaders for the last some days before the crisis gets deeper. Makkar was considered to be spineless but now when his future is at stake, he is learnt to be in defiant mood.
Makkar too has been holding deliberations with the members who were not part of the meeting summoned by Sukhbir. The executive has two members from those other than the Akali Dal as the representation in this body is proportionate to the numbers in the general house.
In case of emergency, the meeting of the executive committee can be summoned on a single point agenda. The meeting has to be summoned by the general secretary. The president can’t be removed by the executive committee as this power vests with the general house. The executive committee can only accept president’s resignation. Any vacancy can be filled up only from among the executive committee. The single point agenda, thus, would have to be the acceptance of resignation and filling up the vacancy. There can’t be two separate agenda items in case of emergency meeting.
However, it has to be seen as to whether Sukhbir succeeds in making Makkar resign.
According to sources, Karnail Singh Panjoli, one of the executive committee members, had advised Makkar at the meeting to submit his resignation at his own rather than getting humiliated. However, Sukhdev Singh Bhaur had a different opinion.
It was this meeting that was perceived to be rebellion against him by Sikhbir.
It was after this meeting that Badal started consultations with some party leaders about technical aspects of the change of president as SGPC is a statutory body. Yet another meeting Badal was to have in the evening in this regard with yet another leader had to be cancelled due to some other engagement.