RSS-affiliate Rashtriya Sikh Sangat on Wednesday waded into the controversy over appointment norms for president of the Takht Hazur Sahib Nanded Board and accused the Shiromani Akali Dal, an alliance partner of the BJP, of misusing Sikh religious institutions for political gains.
The allegations came hours after SAD leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa said in Delhi that the Akali Dal would not shy away from snapping ties with BJP over the Nanded Board row. Soon after, Sikh Sangat leader Avatar Singh Shastri, while issuing a press note, said, “Shiromani Akali Dal Badal is not a sole proprietor of the Sikh issues. Party has always used religious institutions for political interests. Party’s intervention in the religious institutions of Sikhs was on peak when party pressurised Sikh jathedars to issue a pardon to Dera Sirsa head Gurmeet Ram Rahim for the political gains in 2015 and party made SGPC to give advertisements of Rs 82 lakh to get the votes of dera sales of followers.”
The press note read: “Man-jinder Singh Sirsa has no moral right to criticise the BJP while being a BJP MP. If he has any disagreement with any policy of party then he must resign first.” It added, “The Maharashtra government has taken decision about Takht Hazur Sahib Nanded Board president and it is according to law. State government had a say in the decision making process in past too so that good Sikhs can be brought forward to serve the Takht. There have been many Sikhs in Maharashtra and India, who can contribute in the board. SAD (B) has problem with the whole issue because it feels that if good Sikhs came forward for the management of Takhts then SAD(B) will not be able to use Takhts for the political gains.”
Reacting over the issue, SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said, “No state government can be allowed to appoint head of any Sikh institution. Today it is a BJP government. It may be government of the Congress tomorrow in Maharashtra and who knows Congress may appoint Jagdish Tytler as head of the Nanded Board. So no state government can be allowed to appoint such heads and it should be in the hands of Sikhs only.”
On allegations of pardon to Dera head and misuse if institutions, Cheema said, “SGPC is a democratic body. All types of allegations are levelled during SGPC elections and there are over 60 lakh voters and they listen to everybody before voting. We wouldn’t get the sangat’s support if there was anything wrong with our functioning..”
When asked about Sirsa’s statement, Cheema said: “Our issue is very genuine. We have already raised it with BJP leadership, Maharashtra government and the CM. We are hopeful that they will sort it out. You can ask Manjinder Singh Sirsa about what he has said.”