Haryana Assembly on Friday passed a bill paving the way for the formation of a separate body to manage affairs of Gurdwaras in the state even as the main opposition parties INLD and the BJP staged a walkout over the issue.
The bill moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Randeep Surjewala was passed with a voice vote in the absence of the Indian National Lok Dal and BJP members, who had earlier staged a walkout opposing the legislation, claiming that the move was Congress' "conspiracy" to "divide" the community.
Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government in Haryana passed the bill ignoring the stiff opposition of the Amritsar- based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the Shiromani Akali Dal and other groups.
Congress had promised the formation of separate SGPC in its poll manifesto in 2005, but the issue remained unsettled in its first term and got carried over to Hooda's second term.
But with assembly elections due in Haryana in October this year, the issue was speeded up.
Hooda, Surjewala and other treasury benches members described the bill as "historic" one which was long overdue as the Sikhs of Haryana had been "fighting" to have right over management of their Gurudwaras.
Heated arguments erupted between the ruling and opposition benches during the discussion on the Bill with the latter dubbing it as a "ploy" to garner votes ahead of the polls.
"Dont divide the Sikhs on religious lines. They have a long history of sacrifice and the Sikhs of Haryana have not favoured this. This Bill should be taken back," INLD's State unit President Ashok Arora said, finding full support from his party MLAs including senior leaders Abhay Singh Chautala and Ramphal Majra.
BJP's senior leader Anil Vij said that the ruling party was "rushing through" and in a "hurry" to pass the 46-page Bill and had not given enough time to the Opposition to study and go through the contents of the important legislation, which was connected to the future of the Sikh community in the State.
Vij said that the move was a "Congress conspiracy" to divide the community.
However, Hooda and Finance Minister Harmohinder Singh Chattha, who prepared the report which favoured the separate body, told the House that there was no politics being behind the move as the decision regarding it was taken considering sentiments and aspirations of the Sikhs of Haryana.
Earlier in the day, Surjewala introduced the Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014 "to provide for the better autonomous management and effective supervision of Sikh Gurdwaras and Gurdwara properties in Haryana and matters related thereto."
Haryana Sikh leaders including Jagdish Singh Jhinda, Didar Singh Nalwi, who spearheaded the campaign for separate SGPC in Haryana, besides Congress leaders from Punjab including state unit chief Pratap Singh Bajwa and some party MLAs watched the proceedings of the House from the visitors gallery.
Introducing the bill, he said, "it is a historic day for Haryana which will be written in golden letters." Even as Congress led Bhupinder Singh Hooda government introduced the bill in the state assembly, the Amritsar-based SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar announced to set up a Sub-Committee to manage affairs of Gurdwaras in Haryana.