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THE AAM Aadmi Party (AAP) appears set to enter gurdwara politics riding piggyback on Panthak Seva Dal, a new entrant in the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections, which are scheduled to be held in January next year. On October 9, the Panthak Seva Dal elected AAP legislator from Kalkaji, Avtar Singh Kalka, as its convenor, replacing founder convenor Sarabjot Singh Grover. Days before, on October 2, Kalka was inducted into the core committee of Panthak Seva Dal, paving way for his elevation as convenor.
AAP legislator’s appointment as convenor of the Panthak Seva Dal — to which AAP has already extended its support — has fuelled talks that AAP is set to test the waters of gurdwara politics. The development assumes more significance as the DSGMC elections are scheduled to be held at a time when the Assembly polls are also slated in Punjab. Kalka, when contacted on Wednesday, said every Sikh had the right to come forward to manage the affairs of gurdwaras, if it makes administration better Asked which other AAP leaders were likely to be given responsibilities in Panthak Deva Dal for upcoming elections, Kalka said it could be discussed in further meetings. He said leaders like Jarnail Singh from Rajouri Garden were also likely to play a key role in preparing for DSGMC polls.
Panthak Seva Dal general secretary Kartar Singh Kochhar said AAP was supporting them due to their commitment to “cleanse” the gurdwara administration. “Some Congress leaders have also offered to extend their support to us due to our commitment,” said Kochhar. But naming Kalka as convenor has also set off a feud with founder convenor Grover who has alleged that norms were “not followed” in Kalka’s nomination. “As per norms, I am the convenor. I was not there in the meeting where he was named as convenor. Norms stipulate that such meeting cannot be held in convenor’s absence and it is he who calls the meeting,” Grover said, adding Panthak Seva Dal was a registered society and not affiliated to AAP. “Even I had resigned as primary member of AAP before I got associated with it,” he said.
Kochhar, however, said Grover was present in the meeting where Kalka was elected as member of core committee, and even welcomed Kalka as core committee member. “In a meeting held later, he (Grover) could not come and subsequently he sent a letter to which members objected as it was very authoritative. So, the central council, which is made of executive committee and core committee members taken together, decided to replace him [with Avtar Singh Kalka],” said Kochhar. In the 51-member DSGMC house, 46 members are elected, two are co-opted, another two make through draw of lots and one is nominated from Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
Meanwhile, the Shiromani Akali Dal, which is is watching all the developments closely, dismissed that AAP-backed Dal could pose any challenge. “We do not consider it any challenge at all. The people of Delhi are disillusioned the way AAP government has performed,” said DSGMC general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who is also advisor to SAD president and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. The traditional rival of SAD in DSGMC polls, SAD Delhi led by Paramjit Singh Sarna, too, rejected Panthak Seva Dal as a “non-entity”. “Avtar Singh (if he contests) will not be able to win his own seat,” said Paramjit Sarna. In 2013 DSGMC polls, Avtar Singh Kalka had contested unsuccessfully after Sarna fielded him as party candidate.