As the top office bearers of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) have come out openly in support of the candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party for the April 30 parliamentary polls, the Elections Commission of India has asked them not to mix religion with politics.
“The bottom line is that they (leaders of the gurdwara committees) can’t seek votes in the name of religion. We have made it very clear,” said Alok Shukla, deputy election commissioner and ECI in-charge for Punjab.
Shukla was talking to Hindustan Times on his visit to Chandigarh, where he met the officials of the chief electoral office in Punjab.
The presidents of DSGMC and SGPC Manjit Singh GK and Avtar Singh Makkar have been deputed in Amritsar and Ludhiana, respectively, for active campaigning, while DSGMC general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa is stationed at Bathinda.
GK is campaigning for BJP candidate Arun Jaitley, Makkar for SAD’s Manpreet Singh Ayali and Sirsa also for SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
The ECI had already imposed ban on political functions during Hola Mohalla (March 16) and Baisakhi (April 13). “The ECI is particularly against mixing of religion and politics.
They have asked us to immediately take action against those who indulge in seeking vot e s in name of religion,” additional chief electoral of ficer (CEO) Raminder Singh said.
Poll campaign convener of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab Sumail Singh Sidhu told HT that he would take up the matter with the ECI that the office-bearers and employees of the DSGMC and SGPC should not be allowed to take part in the poll campaign.
“Instead of campaigning for one party, the DSGMC and SGPC should set agenda for the parliamentary elections, speaking on behalf of the ordinary people,” suggested Sidhu.
“I think there is nothing wrong incase I campaign for SAD candidates, as I have been a member of SAD first then became SGPC member and the president,” justified Makkar, adding that he would go door to door seeking votes for the Akali Dal candidates.
“There is no denying the fact that we belong to the SAD but we are not seeking votes in the name of religion. The SAD in the past has won elections in name of development,” said Manjit Singh GK, adding that the SAD doesn’t divide people on religious bias, but convince all communities.
“The ECI has taken sternaction against Azam Khan and Amit Shah for raking up religious issues. We would not hesitate incase the SAD leaders falter. We are constantly watching them,” adds Shukla.
On if the SGPC and DSGMC are using gurdwara infrastructure during the electioneering, Shukla accepted that it was a grey area but on receiving a complaint an action would be initiated.