Suspended Shiromani Akali Dal MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and a faction of former party leaders who launched a separate outfit SAD (Taksali) have decided to focus on and contest the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) elections to “free the Sikh body from the control of Badals”.
The Taksalis and Dhindsa have remained at loggerheads with SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal over his style of functioning. Dhindsa, a Rajya Sabha MP, earlier had resigned from all posts in the SAD. The Akali Dal on January 11 suspended Dhindsa and his son and Lehragaga MLA Parminder Dhindsa from “for indulging in anti-party activities”.
The Taksali leadership and Dhindsa have decided to approach Union Home Minister Amit Shah and seek appointment of Gurdwara Elections Chief Commissioner (GECC) to hold the elections for SGPC due for a long time now. They may also approach judiciary .
“First we will contest the SGPC elections to free it from the control of the Badal family. We will start district wise meetings after Lohri,” said Dhindsa.
Asked about the ambitions of the constituent leaders of the group he is engaging with, Dhindsa said, “No commitment has been made to anyone. Our first focus is SGPC elections.”
Told that SGPC elections were long overdue and that (GECC) was yet to be appointed, Dhindsa said, “For how long it could be delayed? The election would have to be held.”
SAD (Taksali) leader Sewa Singh Sekhwan said, “If we are able to free the SGPC from the control of Badals then we will be the real Akali Dal. Former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal always used to say ‘Akali Dal oda hi hai jisdi SGPC hai” (The one who controls SGPC is the real Akali Dal).”
The Taksali leader said that they will rope in “Sikhs who live principled life, who are purely religious in nature, are apolitical, who could give good gurdwara administration” and represent the community in a big way.
“We have held discussions and would shortly meet Union Home Minister with the demand that the (GECC) be appointed and SGPC polls held. If the Home Minister does not accede to our demand, we will approach judiciary. We will make every effort to get SGPC elections held before the Assembly elections in the state,” said Sekhwan.
On November 28, a day after Gobind Singh Longowal was re-elected as SGPC president for third consecutive term and the SGPC executive committee reconstituted, senior advocate and former Aam Aadmi Party legislator from Dakha, H S Phoolka, had written to Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, renewing his demand that the CM should meet the Union Home Minister in connection with fresh SGPC general house elections.
The 191-member SGPC general house comprises 170 elected members, 15 co-opted members, chiefs of all the five Sikh Takhts and Darbar Sahib head granthi. The election for the SGPC general house is supposed to be held every five years and the election of SGPC president and the office bearers of the executive committee takes place annually.
SGPC, the apex representative body of Sikhs, is often referred to as mini Parliament of religious affairs of Sikh community.
The trio of Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Sewa Singh Sekhwan and Rattan Singh Ajnala and Dhindsa have been questioning Sukhbir Badal’s functioning as SAD president saying that party had deviated from its Panthic agenda. They have also blamed incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and alleged failure of then SAD-led government to nab the perpetrators as one of the reasons for its worst ever drubbing at the hustings in 2017 Assembly polls where SAD finished third. Latest to join the group is Parminder Dhindsa, who, after quitiing as leader of SAD legislature party in Vidhan Sabha, is also saying that the party should have apologised for not bringing perpetrators of sacrilege to book.
Currently, SGPC is in control of SAD with majority of elected members owing allegiance to the party.
SGPC elections are to be held every year. In the letter to Amarinder in November last year, Phoolka had written that the term of the present House of SGPC expired on December 16, 2016.
On August 1, 2018, Centre had appointed Justice Darshan Singh as the GECC. However, he did not join and to fill up the vacancy, the Home Ministry again called for a panel of retired Judges from Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The Punjab CM had twice written to Centre last year, in March and June, requesting for appointment of GECC. Amarinder also recommended the names of three retired judges even as the office of Punjab and Haryana High Court Registrar General had sent a panel of retired judges for the post. The Punjab Home department while referring to demi official letters of CM, wrote to Centre in August last year. Another reminder was sent earlier this month, which pointed out that SGPC elections “are overdue” and requested that “the appointment of GECC may be expedited so that the polls are held at the earliest”.
Reached for comments, SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said the Taksalis and others were “most welcome to try their luck”. “Whenever SGPC elections are held, many forces get together and joined by the Congress make efforts to gain control of the SGPC. But nearly 100 years into its formation, the SGPC has not trusted anyone other than Akali Dal. Everyone knows this history,” Cheema said.
About the delay in SGPC elections, Cheema said, “The new SGPC house remained in limbo for four years and started functioning only in 2016. The next elections hence are due in 2021.”
The SGPC House elected in 2011 had been declared null and void that year by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the light of its decision restoring voting rights of Sehajdhari Sikhs.
In 2016, the Supreme Court had reinstated the 2011 SGPC. The Supreme Court decision came after Parliament amended the Gurdwara Act in May 2016 with retrospective effect from 2003 to bar Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in the SGPC elections. In 2003, the Centre had merely issued a notification to bar Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting and it was argued that the Act should be amended by the Parliament and merely on the basis of notification, Sehajdhari Sikhs (those who trim hair) cannot be barred from voting.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines