Going by the results of the assembly elections, the formation of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC, ad hoc) proved to be a minor issue for Sikh voters and did not work for the Congress.The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept almost all seats in the districts of Panchkula, Ambala, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra and Karnal, which have a sizeable number of Sikh voters.
The districts of Sirsa and Fatebahad, which have a large number of Sikhs voters, are traditionally considered a stronghold of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). The party managed to get most of the seats in these two adjoining districts.
After initially questioning the “timing” of the HSGMC set-up, the BJP preferred to keep mum on the issue.
Political observers said the election results dispelled the perception that the issue of an independent body to manage shrines was very important for Haryana Sikhs.
Ahead of the assembly polls, the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government had formed a separate committee, which was strongly opposed by Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
The move was seen as a political masterstroke of the Congress to counter anti-incumbency of 10 years’ rule in the state. It had hoped to woo Sikh voters who were considered as the INLD’s traditional supporters.
The INLD-SAD alliance had claimed that the SGPC’s ‘bifurcation’ amounted to interference in the religious affairs of Sikhs and had used the move as a poll plank to target the Congress.
Members of the HSGMC (ad hoc) had officially passed a resolution to support Congress candidates. The ad hoc committee’s top leaders, including president Jagdish Singh Jhinda, senior vice-president Didar Singh Nalwi and general secretary Joga Singh Yamunanagar had campaigned in support of Congress candidates in various assembly segments.
Jhinda admitted that Sikhs voters did not back the Congress in the elections and blamed the support of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda to the BJP for the Congress’ dismal show.
“It is clear that the Sikh sangat did not give due credit to the Congress and was swept by the anti-incumbency wave. Had voters in Sikh-dominated constituencies given due recognition to the formation of the HSGMC, the Congress must have performed much better,” he said.
Jhinda hoped that the new BJP government would not dissolve the HSGMC as it was an emotional matter of the Sikhs, a minority community in the state.
Nalwi congratulated the BJP on behalf of the HSGMC for getting a clear mandate in Haryana. He said anti-HSGMC forces such as the INLD-SAD alliance had been rejected by voters.
Meanwhile, political observers said the Congress and the INLD gained nothing from the HSGMC factor.
“The results show that it was the caste factor that once against played a major role in the Haryana polls. It appears that while a fraction of Sikhs voted for the Congress over the HSGMC issue, many of them went with the INLD. Similarly, Sikh candidates fielded by the saffron party won on the basis of the caste equation,” said an analyst.
“While no particular party gained from the HSGMC issue, Sikh candidates were elected from Sikh-dominated seats, including the INLD’s Jaswinder Singh Sandhu (Pehowa) and the BJP’s Bakhshish Singh Virk (Assandh),” he said.