Following a reprimand by the Supreme Court, the Delhi government announced on Monday that the elections to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) would be held on January 27.
In the 51-member House, 46 members would be elected directly by the Sikhs of Delhi, while the others would be nominated. It will be a direct fight between the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD-Delhi) led by DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna and the SAD (Badal) led by Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. The committee's term is four years and the elections have been due since January 2011.
The process for filing nomination papers would begin on December 30 and continue till January 7. The results would be declared on January 31. Of the 15 lakh Sikhs living in Delhi, 4.5 lakh are eligible to vote.
With this announcement, the Delhi government's move to bring in an amendment in the Delhi Gurdwara Act, 1971, for direct elections of the committee president, seems to have been put on hold, according to experts.
However, Sarna is still hopeful, claiming that the matter (amendment in the Act) is pending with the union home minister for final sanction and it could happen till the filing of nomination papers.
Taking this plea a fortnight ago, the Delhi government had moved the apex court for postponement of the gurdwara elections, but the latter had turned it down. The court had on December 13 told the Delhi government to bring into effect the orders passed in the October judgment.
In October, the Supreme Court had ordered the Delhi government to conduct the elections by December 31.
The SAD (Badal) is striving to regain control in the DSGMC, which it had lost in 2007. Sarna, one-time protégé of Punjab CM and SAD (Badal) patron Parkash Singh Badal, is keen to extend his tenure as the committee president.
Sukhbir Badal would reach Delhi on Wednesday to announce the first list of candidates. The SAD (Delhi) is also expected to announce the candidates within this week.
"We are ready for the elections. Our work will speak for itself. We would perform even better than in the previous elections," said Sarna.
His arch-rival, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the SAD (Badal) youth wing, said his party had been campaigning against Sarna for the past many months and would make a clean sweep in the elections.
Both SAD factions might be making promises about serving the Sikh panth on taking charge of the DSGMC, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
The battle is being fought for the control of 11 historical gurdwaras with an annual budget of Rs 125 crore Sheeshganj Sahib, Bangla Sahib, Rakabganj Sahib, Nanak Piau, Majnu ka Tila, Moti Bagh, Mata Sundri, Banda Singh Bahadur, Mehrauli, Damdama Sahib and Bala Sahib. Also, there are 800-900 Singh Sabhas controlling mohala/locality gurdwaras, besides nine institutes of professional studies, seven Khalsa colleges, 21 public and aided schools and a hospital.
Sarna say his party's poll plank would be the improvement in management of gurdwaras during the past five years since he took over as president, sprucing up of historical gurdwaras under the DSGMC's control, building of serais in Delhi and Amritsar, getting the Anand Marriage Act implemented, betterment in administration of schools and colleges, and taking up issues such as Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar's death penalty.
According to Manjit Singh GK, president of the SAD (Badal) Delhi unit, said his party would highlight matters such as the DSGMC not adhering to Akal Takht diktats over the past five years, falling standards of education in DSGMC-run schools, and Sarna's alleged involvement in corruption and usurping of land and properties under the DSGMC's control.
Manjit Singh said his party proposed to work for the rehabilitation of 1984 riot victims, provide free education to girl students, open new institutes imparting professional education, stop the misuse of donations received at gurdwaras, and bring back properties illegally sold by the present committee.
Dec 30-Jan 7 Filing of nominations
January 8 Scrutiny of papers
January 27 Polling day
January 31 Declaration of results
Sarna-led ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi) pitted against Badals' SAD
51 members, of which 46 to be elected directly; others to be nominated
4.5 lakh (eligible Sikhs voters living in Delhi)