Haryana and Punjab are headed for a confrontation on the issue of a separate SGPC in the state with the ruling Congress intensifying the demand and making it a poll issue ahead of Assembly elections.
Congress in Haryana is holding a political conference in Kaithal on July 6 to garner public opinion in support of a separate SGPC which will take care of the gurdwaras and other Sikh institutions in the state, a demand which has received strong resistance from Punjab.
"Haryana Sikhs have had a long-pending demand for a separate SGPC and the party is holding a 'sammelan' in Kaithal on July 6 to garner support to fulfil that demand," said Haryana Congress President Ashok Tanwar. A majority of Sikhs in Haryana are concentrated in the Kaithal area.
Congress is looking to garner the support of Sikhs, who have a sizeable presence in Haryana, by making a separate SGPC a poll issue.
Haryana goes to polls in October to elect its 90-member state Assembly. Congress, which is facing an anti-incumbency wave in the state, would be hoping to put up a formidable fight after winning only one of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has already raked up the issue of a separate SGPC, saying it is a major demand of the Sikh community in Haryana. He has also sought legal opinion as regards the setting up of such a body.
Hooda said his government will "soon" take a call in the best interest of Sikhs. A committee headed by state finance minister HS Chattha is said to have received about two lakh affidavits in favour of a separate SGPC for Haryana.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who has raised strong objections to the separate SGPC plan, has already petitioned the NDA government against such a move, terming it "interference" in Sikh affairs.
Badal said that if announced, such a move could disturb the peace in the region.
Badal had last week led a delegation of Punjab MPs to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and raised the issue, saying that the Congress government in Haryana was taking the initiative with an eye on the forthcoming Assembly elections.
He had urged that the Centre must ensure SGPC remains the only organisation to look after the religious affairs of Sikhs by enacting a law on the same.