Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will represent Punjab at Thursday’s International Sikh Conclave being held at Patna Sahib in Bihar to launch the 350th Guru Gobind Singh anniversary celebrations, but the state is planning its own functions leading up to the birth anniversary in January 2017, a period that will coincide with the campaign for the 2017 elections.
Badal will attend the inaugural session of three-day international conclave organised by the Bihar government at the place of Guru Gobind Singh’s birth, where he is expected to detail his own government’s plans for the anniversary. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal is not likely to attend the conclave.
SGPC has already started organising functions that are part of the anniversary in Punjab. “We have organised three functions, including a kavi darbar, after we began celebrations 23 days ago. Next month, we are organising a function at Anandpur Sahib, followed by another one at Hazur Sahib. Massive number of devotees turned up at the three functions that we organised,” said SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar.
“A bus carrying shastra (weapons) belonging to Guru Gobind Singh will leave Anandpur Sahib and reach Patna Sahib on December 2, tracing the route Guru Gobind Singh ji took as a child to reach Anandpur Sahib,” said Makkar.
Makkar, whose fate as president hangs in balance after the recent Supreme Court order paving the way for new elections of the “Sikh parliament”, will not attend the conclave. “I got several calls from the officials attached with Bihar CM. But my health does not allow me to move, so I will not be able to attend the conclave,” Makkar said.
The SAD-BJP government led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has already announced Rs 100 crore for the celebrations that will culminate in January 2017. The timing of the anniversary gives SAD an opportunity to reclaim the panthic ground that it lost in a series of setbacks last year, and flash its credentials as the only party of the Sikh community.
The community is the Akalis’ core constituency, and a SAD comeback in the next election would depend on how well the Badals are able to keep the flock together. But SAD leaders say there are no political calculations in the celebrations planned in Punjab. “Even if the state government has to spend more than Rs 100 crore, government will spend that money. This is such an important event related to highly revered Guru Gobind Singh and government will do everything to make it memorable,” Punjab Public Relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia said.
Akali minister Sikandar Singh Maluk said while the celebrations in Patna were important as Patna Sahib is the birthplace of the Guru, it would be celebrated in a “big way” in Punjab also. “This is all religious. There is nothing political in it.”
3-day international Sikh meet starts today
Patna: Bihar government is all set to launch on Thursday the curtain-raiser to mark the 350th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Govind Singh. While a three-day International Sikh conference will start Thursday, the main event — Prakash Parv — will be celebrated on December 30.
To mark the celebrations, the Bihar government has announced three-day state holidays from January 1 to 3, 2017. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told reporters here: “Our government is committed to make the mega function successful. We will take care of religious sentiments of all faith. The arrangement of the international festival will be supervised by former Bihar chief secretary G S Kang.” The CM said the three-day international conference will see participants from several countries.
It will also be attended by important personalities, including Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, Union Minister S S Ahluwalia, Prisons Minister in UP government Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, former Bihar governor Buta Singh and Rajasthan minority commission head Jasbir Singh.