The stage is being set for another electoral battle — this one in the national capital as the elections of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) are due on March 11.
A core committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) will meet in Chandigarh on Sunday to finalise its agenda for the polls.
The Badals’ rival and DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna, who heads the Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi), is also set to kick-start his campaign.
“Corruption in Delhi’s gurdwaras is going to be the SAD-Badal’s agenda to take on the Sarnas in the forthcoming elections. We will fine-tune things on Sunday,” said SAD (Badal) secretary Daljeet Singh Cheema, adding that apart from corruption, DSGMC-run educational institutions running into losses and sale of gurdwara committee-owned land to the Delhi government for building parking places would be the areas of focus for the SAD (Badal).
“Moreover they (the Sarnas) have shut down four schools being run by the committee, and have been using donations in gurdwaras to run a political campaign against us to support the Congress,” Cheema said.
General secretary of SAD (Delhi) and Paramjit’s younger brother Harvinder Singh Sarna, however, dismissed allegations of corruption.
“We are not like the Badals. They are corrupt and have used SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) money in the January 30 assembly elections,” said Harvinder, who was DSGMC president in 2005-06. “Our donation is 10% of what SGPC gets, and our expenditure is manifold.”
The SGPC is dominated by the SAD (Badal).
Harvinder claimed that the DSGMC had an income of Rs 40 crore from donations by pilgrims and another Rs 35 crore from offerings of prasad, totalling to Rs 75 crore. Against this, the declared annual budget of the SGPC was Rs 500 crore, he said.
“We run schools, degree colleges, hospitals and offer free ration to poor Sikh families. Very shortly we are starting a scheme of giving free medical cover to poor Sikh families and for that we don’t set criteria for welfare as in the case of the SGPC,” he said. “Any Gursikh (with unshorn hair and having faith in the Guru Granth Sahib) can approach us for health care.”
However, Avtar Singh Makkar, working president of the SGPC said, “The DSGMC has done no good for society and all their claims are false.”
He said the Delhi Sikh body should declare its budget.
In the March 11 elections, 46 members will be elected to the 55-member DSGMC house. Nine members are co-opted.
In the past two terms, 2002-2007 and 2007-12, the SAD (Delhi) has held a majority.
After 1925, the management of gurdwaras in Delhi was brought under the control of the SGPC, which came into existence under the provisions of The Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925. An 11-member committee, the Delhi Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, used to manage these gurdwaras. But post-Independence, with a huge Sikh population settling in Delhi, the demand for a separate committee grew, leading to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1971, and formation of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.
DSGMC has 55 members, 46 of whom are elected by Sikhs of Delhi and nine are co-opted Of the nine co-opted members, two represent Singh Sabhas of Delhi, one the SGPC, four the Takhts at Amritsar, Anandpur, Patna and Nanded, and two are Sikhs of Delhi who do not want to or cannot contest but whose services can be of value to the committee Of a population of 10 lakh Sikhs in Delhi, 4 lakh Puran Sikhs (with unshorn hair) are on the voter’s list for the March 11 DSGMC elections In the 2002 DSGMC polls, the Sarna-led front won 27 seats, increasing the count to 28 in 2007. The SAD (Badal) could manage only six seats in 2007.
Till 1999, the Sarnas were in the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal). The split occurred when the then SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal fell apart before the tercentenary celebration of the Sikh Panth. “We supported Tohra for about a year after that, but decided to function independently and formed the SAD (Delhi) in 2000,” Harvinder said.
Paramjit Singh Sarna became president of the DSGMC in 1995-96 with the support of Parkash Singh Badal.
After winning the DSGMC elections under the SAD (Delhi) banner, he became DSGMC president in 2002 till 2004 and again in 2006 till date.
With the SAD (Badal) entering into an election alliance with the BJP and subsequently forming a coalition government in 1997, the Sarnas sided with the Congress.
They openly supported Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, sharing the stage with him.
The Sarnas supported candidates contesting against SAD (Badal) in last year’s September 18 SGPC elections, but they could win only a few seats.