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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, February 26, 2013
Manjit Singh GK (54) is new president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC).
The new-elected members of the committee on Tuesday elected him president unanimously. GK, son of late jathedar Santokh Singh, had led the Delhi unit of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) to victory in the committee's elections, defeating Paramjit Singh Sarna and his SAD (Delhi).

GK's election was held in the presence of the Akal Takht jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh, who is ex-officio member of the committee without the voting right. The jathedars of Keshgarh Sahib, Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib are also ex-officio members of the committee.

Manjinder Singh Sirsa (39), youth president of SAD (B) in Delhi, was obvious choice for the committee's general secretary, and he got his reward for defeating Sarna, outgoing president of the committee, in the election held on January 27. Sirsa is considered close to the Badals, whose family rules Punjab.

Party patron Parkash Singh Badal, who is also chief minister of Punjab; and party president, Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is deputy CM of Punjab, cleared the names of the committee president, general secretary and other office-bearers. As per the provisions of the DSGMC Act of 1971, the director of gurdwara elections, GP Singh, nominated Kulmohan Singh as house chairman, who asked for names for the post of the committee president.

Avtar Singh Hit proposed GK's name, which was supported by Onkar Singh Thapar first before all member gave their unanimous consent. The SAD (B) had bagged 37 of the 46 seats in the January 27 elections, ousting Sarna-led SAD-Delhi, which could win just eight seats (an Independent got one). Of the eight winners from the Sarna group, only two were present in Tuesday's meeting, where the 51-member house elected the president and other office-bearers. Of the 51 members, 46 were elected directly by 4.5 lakh Sikh voters in Delhi, while five were nominated.

Hit, who was DSGMC president from 2000 to 2002 and Delhi-unit president of the SAD (B) for many years, was in the race for the top post but failed to garner the support of his party leaders. Once close to Parkash Singh Badal, he was distanced from the party after GK was given reins in 2008. Other than Hit, Sirsa and first-time member Onkar

Singh Thapar also were contenders for the top post. The SAD (B) regained control of the DSGMC after an 11 years. It lost consecutively in 2002 and 2007.

The post of senior vice-president went to Ravinder Singh Khurana, while Dhanwant Singh became vice-president and Harmeet Singh Kalka secretary of the DSGMC. A 10-member executive committee was also named.* Apart from the control of 11 gurdwaras and an annual budget of Rs. 125 crore, the two SADs now compete to win the hearts of 15 lakh Sikhs living in Delhi, though only 4.5 lakh vote in the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Managing Committee (DSGMC) elections

AT STAKE

* The gurdwara committee elections are a big opportunity to have direct access to the Sikh masses from across the globe through the gurdwaras they visit

* The party in charge of the DSGMC also gains importance in Delhi's political circles.

* 11 gurdwaras (Sheesganj Sahib, Bangla Sahib, Rakabganj Sahib, Nanak Piau, Majnu Ka Tila, Moti Bagh, Mata Sundri, Banda Singh Bahadur, Mehrauli, Damdama Sahib, and Bala Sahib)

* Rs. 125 crore Annual budget

* 800-900 Singh Sabhas that control mohalla (locality) gurdwaras

* 9 institutes of professional studies, 1 medical college, 7 Khalsa colleges, 21 public and govt-aided schools