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Separate SGPC leads to resurgence of Sikh identity in state, little poll value

Spread across at least 25 constituencies in varying numbers, the Sikh voter is undecided about who to throw its lot behind.

The creation of a separate SGPC by the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government in Haryana in the face of vehement opposition by the SGPC and SAD in Punjab might have consumed the two states for almost a month, but the issue per se seems to have failed to move Sikh voters in the state.

At best, the matter has led to a resurgence of Sikh identity in the run-up to the Assembly polls, with Sikhs visibly participating in large numbers in rallies, standing out distinctly with their turbans which are still neither green (INLD), white (Congress) or saffron (BJP).

“The fact that Hooda put in so much effort to ensure that a separate SGPC is created and how it almost led to a war with Punjab with the Punjab chief minister also ready to give up his headship of state to retain SGPC supremacy has brought the Sikh voter into the limelight. We feel we are important,” said Kuldeep Singh, a young Sikh voter who runs a shop in Ambala.

Spread across at least 25 constituencies in varying numbers, the Sikh voter is undecided about who to throw its lot behind and the creation of the separate SGPC is not helping or damaging any one party overtly except in a few stray pockets.

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While the INLD is using SAD in good measure to consolidate the Sikh vote in rural areas behind them, the BJP is assured that the Sikh voter in the urban areas is standing stoically with them, choosing development over anything else. The Congress is smug in the knowledge that it is they who met the long-standing demand of Sikhs in Haryana and the Sikh vote share is theirs.

“Congress might have met the demand but has not been able to cash in on their achievement. In Pehowa, Congress has fielded Mandeep Chatha, son of cabinet minister Harmohinder Singh who is behind the creation of the separate SGPC. But here also the Sikhs are divided between the Congress and INLD,” said Jatinder Singh, a daily wage farmer of Samanabad village who had come to attend an INLD rally.

The SAD, whom the INLD had put on the job to consolidate the Jat as also the Sikh votes in their favour, is also not talking about their opposition to a separate SGPC. “It is a Sikh institution and religious issue. We opposed the creation of the Haryana SGPC following certain principles. Our aim, unlike that of Hooda, was not to use it as a election issue,” said Darbara Singh Guru, former bureaucrat and SAD leader who is camping in Karnal for a month now. “The Congress is also silent about its so called achievement. In some villages of Assandh constituency, where HSGPC leaders have their villages, this is a talking point, otherwise it is not,” he added.

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Barring reports from Dabwali where Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was greeted with black flags by Congress Sikh supporters, the Congress seems not to be highlighting the HSGPC issue in other Sikh populated areas like Ratia, Rania, Ambala, Kurukshetra.

“The presence of the BJP is the reason. Congress will push its non-Sikh voters to BJP if they were to whip up too much sentiment over this issue at this stage,” said a BJP leaders from Punjab stationed in Karnal.

First published on: 10-10-2014 at 10:07 IST
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