The party is called the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), but the Badals are in the background in its campaign for the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections scheduled for February 26. Incumbent president Manjit Singh GK is getting pride of place ahead of the party’s top leadership — Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is the party’c chief patron; and his deputy and party president Sukhbir Singh Badal — in campaign material and speeches.
Reason: The series of sacrilege incidents in late 2015 in Punjab, and the support of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda to the party on the state polls, have not gone down well with Sikh masses in Punjab, and the Delhi unit does not want that to happen in the national capital.
Immediately after the dera led by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh declared support for the SAD-BJP a week before the February 4 Punjab polls — results of which will be out on March 11 — GK had announced that it was not the right decision for some leaders of the party to take the dera’s support.
This, because the Akal Takht, the Sikhs’ temporal seat, had issued an edict to sever all ties with the dera when the sect chief had allegedly dressed like Guru Gobind Singh in 2007. Last year, the Takht had accepted the dera head’s apology, but that move was retracted after allegations that the Badals had managed it for political reasons. Thus, the edict stays.
The Badals, who actively campaigned during the gurdwara polls of 2013, are therefore banking on GK, who is the party’s Delhi unit president, and general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa to lead the charge.
An Akali leader did claim, “They (Badals) are out of the country, and will come for the campaign in Delhi.” But he did not want to be named.
GK said this about the Badals remaining low key in Delhi: “It’s a conscious decision by us to keep politics out of religion. Our opponents have no issues to raise against us. And this is our reply to opponents who say we mix religion and politics. We will contest the polls here on our own and make our party victorious.” He said this standing on the ‘Wall of Truth’, a memorial built by the DSGMC to Sikhs killed in the 1984 riots, at Gurdwara Rakabganj Sahib.
Pressed, he insisted, “We are seeking their (Badals’) help as and when we need it. They have never interfered in our working. We have kept politics out of religious functioning.”
Backing him, Manjinder Sirsa said four years’ work in the gurdwara committee will speak for the party. “Four years ago, the story was different. Our party ousted the corrupt Sarna brothers. Now we are in a strong position and capable of winning the elections on our own,” he said.
About achievements, GK said, “Akal Takht’s maryada was restored; centenaries of Guru Gobind Singh and Baba Banda Singh Bahadur were celebrated with fervour.” While releasing the manifesto, he also said, “The list of works done in our term is unending. We Bala Sahib hospital released from the control of a private company; minority status was obtained for four colleges run by the committee; ‘Wall of Truth’ memorial was constructed; and a piau at Gurdwara Sis Ganj that demolished by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government was reconstructed and a legal battle was won.”
In the Punjab assembly polls, the SAD-BJP, after two consecutive terms in power, faced stiff competition from the Congress and also the AAP. With the Panthic Sewa Dal, backed by the AAP, in DSGMC fray this time, the polls here too are a three-cornered contest.