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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

5 years on, Badals' SAD hopes for comeback in Delhi

Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 29, 2012
First Published: 00:29 IST(29/11/2012) | Last Updated: 10:30 IST(29/11/2012)

Five years ago, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) slipped out of the hands of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) led by the Badals. But now the party, which is running a coalition government in Punjab and is also in charge of the Amritsar-headquartered Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), is treading with caution, trying to make no mistake as it sees a comeback opportunity in Delhi.

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The bloody incident of November 15, when the Delhi wing of the SAD-Badal and men from the DSGMC's ruling party SAD-Delhi clashed at the gurdwara committee's office at central Delhi's Gurdwara Rakabganj, causing serious injuries to SAD-Badal's Delhi unit president Manjit Singh GK among others, evoked a sharp reaction from SAD-Badal president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. Sukhbir visited Delhi last week to meet the injured leaders, a move being seen as a morale-booster for the party cadres, who requested for more such programmes.

CLOSE WATCH
Sukhbir's father and Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal is also keeping a close eye on the situation. A seasoned politician, he has his own system of feedback and reaction. "They (Badals) are not taking any chances now, and are keeping a close watch on Sikh politics in Delhi. Balwant Singh Ramoowalia has been designated as coordinator for Delhi," said a senior SAD leader.

"Parkash Singh Badal has given us clearance to invite him to any number of programmes in Delhi," Youth Akali Dal's Delhi unit president Manjinder Singh Sirsa told HT. Badal was in Delhi to attend a kirtan darbar program organised at Manjinder's residence to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on Wednesday.

WHY THE VIOLENCE
The incident of November 15 is being seen as fallout of the delay in DSGMC elections, which were scheduled for January 2011. The DSGMC has proposed an amendment in the Delhi Gurdwara Act to allow direct elections of the committee president. This change, if approved by the Delhi assembly, may further delay the elections by several months.

SAD-Badal says the elections are being delayed by the Congress-led Delhi government, at the behest of DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna, who was once a protégé of the Badals.

Sarna was not always seen siding with the Congress. Part of the SAD-Badal then, he was made DSGMC president in 1995, and in 2002 he formed his party and became president of the DSGMC in alliance with SAD-Badal. In 2007, his party contested on its own, and he became president again, causing much embarrassment to the Badal faction.

THEN AND NOW
But it took SAD-Badal a decade to understand its downward slide in Delhi, and it now puts the onus on its then Delhi wing president Avtar Singh Hit.

Hit had led the party to a loss in the DSGMC polls in 2007, then himself lost the Delhi assembly elections in 2008, and later failed to even be elected as a councillor.

Hit's replacement Manjit Singh GK, who remained inactive in politics after the death of his father Santokh Singh, is now banking on the stature of his late father. Manjit was chosen to replace Hit after the party floated by him, SAD-Panthic, won 11 seats in the 46-strong DSGMC House in 2007, and he later merged with the SAD-Badal in 2008.

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