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Sukhbir’s satisfaction at Dera support can create problems in DSGMC polls

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, February 12: The transitional stage into which the Shiromani Akali Dal has entered could be an embarrassment for the party leaders in Delhi engaged in the bitter fight to retain control over the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. This transition in the former Panthic party was evident at the meeting of the Akali Dal’s political affairs committee last evening. The symbol of change happens to be Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of this second oldest party in the country that was created as a volunteer force to carry forward the gurdwara liberation struggle  under the aegis of Akal Takht after the Darbar sahib complex came under the control of the Sikhs.

According to highly placed sources, Sukhbir expressed satisfaction at the support extended to the party by Dera Sacha Sauda that was ostracised by Akal Takht in May, 2007. Two other  leaders on this issue who were vocal included Sikander Singh Maluka and Janmeja Singh Sekhon. This otherwise controversial  Dera has considerable influence in the Malwa heartland. It is the Akali Dal whose responsibility it is to  oversee the implementation of the Akal Takht edict. In this case, it is the Akali leaders including Maluka who have committed the violation by going to the Dera Sacha Sauda to seek support in Assembly election.

The Akali Dal just cannot distance itself from this role till its constitution revised and adopted at its general house meeting. As per the 1974 version of the party constitution, the character of the Akali Dal is Panthic.

At the same time, the Akali Dal  should stop contesting  elections to the general house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee under the party banner. The Akali Dal was created by the SGPC at Akal Takht as its volunteer force. The top Sikh institutions are inter-related. The Akali Dal would have to vacate the Panthic space completely to function like any political party.

There is yet another serious aspect of the discussion in the PAC. The setting up of the 3-member probe committee by the SGPC is not to the liking of some leaders and they made it known too. It may be mentioned that the SGPC chief is also a member of the PAC of the Akali Dal. The committee was constituted on directive from Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh who could not resist  pressure from the Sikhs across the globe on this sensitive issue.

It was suggested that the probe should include all the Sikh leaders irrespective of the party affiliations who had approached the Dera that includes former Congress chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal also. However, only the Akali candidates were present at the congregation at  Bathinda at which support to the Akalis was  announced by the political wing of this Dera. The thinking behind it was this might dilute the controversy. However, the basic issue involved is the credibility of the high Sikh institutions. Akali Dal is not expected to denigrate these institutions but uphold their dignity and command.

These sources maintained that DSGMC chief Manjit Singh GK expressed his embarrassment today to some leaders as this is likely to be exploited by the adversaries. It may be mentioned that desecration of Guru Granth Sahib beginning with Bagrari in 2015 has emerged as a big issue to haunt the Akali Dal in the recent Assembly elections. The situation has been further compounded  with Sukhbir expressing satisfaction at the Dera support although there was no formal statement to this effect.

Already, the Delhi party leaders have blacked out both Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir from the literature for gurdwara poll. Badal Senior is in USA where he has gone for treatment. It was decided that the Punjab leaders would camp in Delhi from February 16. They might not be assigned any major role in the campaign keeping in view the Sikh sensitivity on these critical issues.  

About Jagtar Singh

Senior journalist and author Jagtar Singh is rooted in vast professional experience spanning more than 35 years, starting his career with The Indian Express in Chandigarh, the paper he worked with for about quarter of a century beginning 1978 covering religio-political dynamics of Punjab.


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