Vote-bank: ‘MSG’ puts SAD, Congress in a fix
The uproar over ‘MSG: The Messenger of God’ has put the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) as well as the opposition Congress in Punjab in a tight spot. With Dera Sacha Sauda’s supporters being a key vote bank in the state, particularly the Malwa region, both parties have done a tightrope walk on dera controversies over the years. Now, they have to take a stand in favour or against the movie.chandigarh Updated: Jan 16, 2015 23:10 IST
The uproar over ‘MSG: The Messenger of God’ has put the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) as well as the opposition Congress in Punjab in a tight spot. With Dera Sacha Sauda’s supporters being a key vote bank in the state, particularly the Malwa region, both parties have done a tightrope walk on dera controversies over the years. Now, they have to take a stand in favour or against the movie.
The Delhi unit of the SAD, led by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) chief Manjit Singh GK, is opposing the film’s release. However, the party high command has not yet taken any decision in this regard. The SAD cannot afford to upset the Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which are staunchly against the dera head’s movie. However, opposing ‘MSG’ would displease the vote-rich dera.
The Congress’ central leadership has come out in support of Leela Samson, who quit as the censor board chairperson after the film was cleared by the appellate tribunal. The party’s national spokesman, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, has criticised the Narendra Modi government over the circumstances that led to Samson’s resignation. However, the state party unit is adopting a wait-and-watch policy.
“The movie is yet to get a censor certificate. Only the tribunal has cleared it so far. The SAD will call a meeting and decide accordingly,” said Sikander Singh Maluka, cabinet minister and SAD’s Bathinda district unit president.
When asked about Akali leader Manjit Singh GK’s open criticism of the dera head and the movie, Maluka said, “The party’s Delhi unit is a separate entity. The state unit has not taken any call yet.”
The SAD’s dilemma is amplified by the fact that its ally in Haryana, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), has criticised the movie and its student wing president Digvijay Singh Chautala has asked SAD president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal to get the movie banned in Punjab.
State Congress spokesman Sukhpal Singh Khaira and state party unit president Partap Singh Bajwa did not respond to repeated phone calls.
When contacted, Congress’ Malwa zone vice-president Gurpreet Singh Kangar said he was not in a position to comment on the movie. “I was busy with family affairs and could not talk on the issue with the party high command,” he said.
Since 2007, when the dera chief invited the Akal Takht’s wrath by allegedly dressing up as Guru Gobind Singh, both the Congress and the SAD have avoided interfering in dera issues. The dera had supported the Congress in the 2007 assembly polls, but the party failed to retain power in Punjab. In the 2012 polls, the dera had neither openly supported the Congress nor the SAD.