Punjab's ruling party, the Shiromani Akali Dal-Badal (SAD-B), has invested heavily in the January 27 battle to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), with an eye firmly set on the Delhi assembly elections due in November.
The 46 elected members of the DSGMC would be announced on January 31. And if the party - which has Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal as patron, and his son and deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal as president -- manages to dislodge the Sarnas' SAD-Delhi, it would look to bargain with its ally BJP to contest for seats in the capital's assembly.
While the BJP is a junior partner in the Punjab government, in Delhi the SAD is banking on support of the Sikh population to get a bigger role in the national capital. The Badals had sought to contest 10 of the total 70 Vidhan Sabha seats in 2008, but had reached a pact for four -- one on the SAD symbol (scales) in Rajouri Garden and three others on BJP's lotus. All four candidates had lost, though the margin in Rajouri Garden was merely 32 votes.
"The party will be stronger after victory (in the DSGMC polls), and this will further strengthen the SAD-BJP bond in Delhi too," said SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra, all but confirming the SAD-B's keenness to contest the Delhi assembly elections after the DSGMC innings. However, the SAD-B has not been vocal about its assembly election ambitions during the DSGMC campaign that has witnessed local BJP leaders campaigning for the SAD-B in only some constituencies.
The BJP's Delhi unit president, Vijendra Gupta, is skeptical over SAD-B's chances: "They (SAD candidates) should contest on BJP symbol for good results." Evading a direct reply on the reported grudge among local BJP leaders over the Badals' "intrusion to in Delhi politics", Gupta said it was too early to comment on seat-sharing.
While the SAD-B goes by Sikhism's Miri-Piri ideology of religio-politics, SAD-Delhi chief Paramjit Singh Sarna, who has been helming the DSGMC for a decade now, insists that his is a "purely religious party" that has never contested assembly or Lok Sabha elections. But his leanings are no secret.
Sarna's party, all through the campaign, has assured to the Congress leadership "the support of the Sikhs of Delhi" in the assembly elections. Symbiotically, Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh has been campaigning for the Sarnas' Akali Dal.
Sarna himself faces strong opposition from Manjinder Singh Sirsa in Punjabi Bagh, where SAD-B cadres, led by Punjab revenue minister and Sukhbir's brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia, are leaving no stone unturned to turn the tide.
Sarna's sworn enemy in the Delhi gurdwara politics, SAD-B's Delhi unit chief Manjit Singh GK is understood to have been elected unopposed as his rival from the Sarna camp, Gurpreet Singh Jassa, has withdrawn from the contest and switched sides. With almost all of the SAD-B's 56 MLAs from Punjab caping in Delhi, the Sarna camp has an uphill task.
KNOW THE TURF
Delhi is divided into 46 wards to elect DSGMC members.
In the 51-member House, the five remaining members are nominated.
The DSGMC has a total of 4.11 lakh voters.
Sahibpura in northwest Delhi has the highest 37,747 votes, followed by Vishnu Garden at 23,249 votes.
Paharganj has just 1,504 votes.
The SAD-Delhi, led by incumbent DSGMC president Paramjit Sarna, has been harping on 'Sikhi bachao' ('Save Sikh tenets), insisting that the SAD-B is a party of 'outsiders'
The SAD-Badal is banking on the alleged defiance of the Nanakshahi calendar by the Sarna-led DSGMC, and 'corruption' in the DSGMC-run academic institutions