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Boost to Congress in Punjab before polls

delhi Updated: May 10, 2009 00:32 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times
Boost to Congress in Punjab before polls

In a blow to the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)-Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) alliance in Punjab, Paramjit Singh Sarna (65), of the Congress-backed Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was unanimously re-elected as president of Delhi Sikh Gurudwara
Prabhandhak Committee (DSGPC) on Saturday. Sarna was elected DSGPC chief for the sixth time.

Coming four days ahead of the May 13 polls to nine Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, Sarna’s re-election is significant as it is set to give a big boost to the Congress, which is in direct contest against the BJP-SAD (Badal) alliance in the state. In the faction-ridden DSGPC, while the SAD is backed by Congress, SAD (Badal) group supports the BJP.

“This will definitely affect the BJP’s prospects in Punjab,” said Sarna who is also the president of SAD. The outcome is important for Delhi Congress, coming, as it is in the aftermath of the recent protests by the Sikh community in the Capital over the 1984 riots. The Badal group was in the forefront of the recent agitation by Sikhs in the city. DSGMC had initially said that it would not support the Congress in Northeast and South Delhi parliamentary seat from where the party had fielded Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, the two leaders alleged to be involved in the riots. But, it changed its decision after the two leaders were dropped.

DSGMC support is important for Congress in Delhi as the religious body manages gurdwaras, several Sikh schools, colleges, hospitals and educational and technical institutions in the city. “We are against all those involved in the ’84 riots but why penalise the entire Congress party for that,” said Sarna.

He was unanimously elected after the Badal group did not put up any candidate. Of the 51 member, while 41 voted for Sarna, nine belonging to the Badal group abstained. Kuldeep Singh Bhogal, secretary general SAD (Badal) said: “DSGPC is a religious body but it seems now the Congress has taken over it. We boycotted the elections to protest against the politicisation of this religious body by Sarna.”

The Badal group originally had 21 members. Bhogal alleged that in the run-up to the DSGPC elections, Sarna and his supporters bought 12 members over. Sarna refuted the allegations.

Delhi High Court had on April 24 directed the DSGMC to convene its general body meeting within 15 days and hold elections to the Executive Board within a month thereafter in accordance with the DSGMC Act.