NOW THAT Lok Sabha elections are over, calls for the much-delayed Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) polls are getting louder.
The SGPC polls are usually organised five years after the appointment of the chief commissioner, gurdwara elections. The last time these polls were held was in 2011, when 157 of a total 170 seats were won by the SAD-Sant Samaj alliance. “Elections were due in 2016, but they were never held as the existing body claimed it had gotten an extension. However, on February 14, 2019, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha had passed a resolution requesting the central government to hold SGPC elections. I had also written to the PM and had even got a reply that elections will be organised. Hence SAD’s claim that the SGPC body had got an extension falls flat. Hence, polls must be held and the state government must take up the matter with the Union Home Minister at the earliest,” said H S Phoolka, AAP MLA from Dakha while talking to The Indian Express. Phoolka had moved the resolution in Vidhan Sabha.
SGPC polls are organised for the management and maintenance of gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and Chandigarh. It also runs 125 schools and colleges, a university — Guru Granth Sahib University, Fatehgarh Sahib — and the Guru Ram Das Hospital at Amritsar. The SGPC’s budget for the current financial year is Rs 1,205 crore.
While campaigning before Lok Sabha elections, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh was during several of his speeches, heard saying, “The Congress does not contest SGPC elections, but I would personally support anyone who can free the Sikh religious body from the SAD’s shackles.” However, the issue seems to be lying in cold storage now.
Phoolka had then said, “The Punjab CM had announced that he would personally meet the Union Home Minister to impress upon him (the need) to appoint chief commissioner, gurdwara elections at the earliest. Till today there is no information of the meeting with Union Home Minister. It is the duty of the CM to get the Gurdwara Commission constituted and get SGPC polls conducted at the earliest.”
Asked about the delay, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said, “There was a case in the Supreme Court where Sehajdhari Sikhs were demanding voting rights and they lost that case last year. Though elections were organised in 2011, the new body could not conduct any meetings due to the court case. Hence, the body was continuing. I too was appointed only last year”
Talking about the Centre’s communication that they will appoint a Gurdwara Commission soon, said, “There is no issue. But it will still be a long process as new voters are to be registered, delimitation of areas may also happen and only after that, elections can happen. The SGPC manages gurdwaras. It is providing education to students apart from Dharam Parchar. Hence our body is working for the welfare of masses.”
SAD sources said that though SGPC polls were due in December 2016, they were not organised with a plea of extension as the party feared being rejected after the 2015 sacrilege episode.