Despite the Election Commission's directions on not holding political conferences at religious occasions while the model code of conduct is in force, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) is planning to put up a big show for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) during the March 15-17 Hola Mohalla celebrations at Anandpur Sahib.
"We would hold a major event during the political conference of our party (SAD)," announced SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar, adding that his party would raise religious issues if the EC would not allow political campaigning.
The SGPC has already started putting up a pandal to accommodate an expected gathering of more than 1 lakh.
Apart from Makkar, senior SAD leaders, including chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjit Singh GK and Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma are expected to deliver speeches.
Even as the EC has directed the Rupnagar district administration to keep close tabs on the event, deputy commissioner Pradeep Aggarwal told HT that the land on which the conferences were organised belongs to the SGPC. "We can't stop political parties from organising conferences, but our role would be to monitor what issues are raised by various leaders," Aggarwal added.
Political observers say the EC can't do much in such cases as religion and politics go hand in hand. "Even if the parties say that development is their agenda for the elections, it's a fact that they derive strength from religion," a political expert said.
A senior Akali leader said, "We would raise issues such as Operation Bluestar and 1984 riots, even if the EC records our speeches."
SGPC to canvass for SAD candidates
Avtar Singh Makkar on Friday announced that elected members of the SGPC would campaign for SAD-BJP candidates contesting the parliamentary polls.
"Why not?" asked Makkar, adding that since SGPC members were also members of the SAD, there was nothing wrong in their seeking votes for party candidates. "SGPC members and even I would go door to door seeking vote and support of the people of Punjab for the SAD," added Makkar.