BJP dares Akalis after RSS function boycott: ‘Contest alone to test popularity’ | punjab | Hindustan Times
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BJP dares Akalis after RSS function boycott: ‘Contest alone to test popularity’

The controversy started after hardline Sikh outfits objected to the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat’s programme, alleging that it was part of a larger agenda to subsume Sikhism into Hinduism.

punjab Updated: Oct 27, 2017 23:02 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Punjab BJP unit’s senior vice-president and Sikh face Harjit Grewal
Punjab BJP unit’s senior vice-president and Sikh face Harjit Grewal (HT Photo)

A function by the Sikh wing of the BJP’s parent body Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in Delhi on October 25 — held to celebrate the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh — is snowballing into a tussle between allies Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab. So much so, that the BJP unit’s senior vice-president and Sikh face Harjit Grewal daring the SAD to exit the alliance.

The controversy started after hardline Sikh outfits objected to the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat’s programme, alleging that it was part of a larger agenda to subsume Sikhism into Hinduism. The Sikh temporal seat, Akal Takht, then reiterated a 2004 edict to boycott the RSS wing. And the SAD, which dominates the community’s religio-politics in Punjab, backed the edict.

Adding fuel to the fire, Kirpal Singh Badungar, president of the SAD-controlled Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, considered the community’s mini-parliament, said, “RSS di neeyat badd hai (RSS’s intentions are bad). Its leaders are eyeing to contest polls of Sikh organisations, even the SGPC.”

The flare-up came out in the open when BJP’s Grewal reacted on a TV debate. On Friday, he told HT, “Badungar termed Prime Minister Modi and RSS ‘anti-Sikh’. Then, why doesn’t he tell the SAD leadership to break ties with us and contest alone to get a real idea about its popularity?”

Badungar was not available for a comment, but sources in the SAD told HT that party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has “conveyed resentment” to the BJP over Grewal’s statement. 

Grewal said he won’t bother about how the SAD reacts: “I stand by what I said. If the SAD has problem with BJP’s ideologue RSS, why don’t they ask biba-ji (read Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Bathinda MP and Sukhbir’s wife) to resign from the Modi government? Why are they enjoying the luxury of the central government?”

‘The real reason’ 

He then claimed that it’s not the RSS function that has “pinched” the SAD and that “actually there are other reasons behind SAD leadership’s resentment”. “The SAD was demanding chairmanship of the minorities commission at the Centre and that even members should be finalised after consulting the SAD. It’s as if they are the sole custodians of Sikh community! The central government cannot be blackmailed like this,” Grewal fumed. 

When HT contacted the national general secretary of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, Avtar Singh Shastri, he was not as combative. First he addressed some outfits terming the function a flop: “Actually, it is their frustration speaking, as the programme was attended by a large gathering from across the globe.” RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was there along with Union home minister Rajnath Singh.

“As far as the SAD’s reaction is concerned, we have always respected the party and its patron Sardar Parkash Singh Badal and we don’t have any ill will against them,” Shastri added. 

SAD ‘resentment’

The SAD defended Badungar and the alliance. “To ensure compliance of the Akal Takht edict is the duty of the SGPC chief, and he did nothing wrong as the edict was to not attend the RSS function,” said party spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema, adding “Ours is a time-tested alliance, and if anybody has some issues he should speak before the co-ordination committee of both parties, not in the media,”

However, a senior SAD leader said on the condition of anonymity that “strong resentment” is prevailing in the party over the function. “Rajnath Singh failed to even say ‘Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal’ properly. Union minister (and state BJP chief) Vijay Sampla termed Guru Gobind Singh as ‘Hind ki Chadar’, whereas the title is for Guru Teg Bahadur. The RSS and BJP know nothing about Sikhs.”