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HindustanTimes Fri,28 Nov 2014

Eye on Delhi assembly polls, Cong, BJP out to woo Sikhs

Prabhjit Singh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 24, 2013
First Published: 23:47 IST(24/1/2013) | Last Updated: 01:07 IST(25/1/2013)

With the Delhi assembly elections due in November, the ruling Congress and the main opposition BJP are banking on the January 27 Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections to woo the Sikh electorate.

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Leaders and workers of the BJP and the Congress are busy canvassing and hosting luncheon meetings for candidates of their respective allies - Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi).

No wonder, SAD (Delhi) chief and DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna is assuring the Congress of the Sikh community's support in the assembly polls.

"Sab kujh tuhadi jholi 'ch paa deyange (we will put everything into your kitty)," Sarna told local Congress MLA Dr Bijender Singh at a DSGMC election rally in West Delhi on Wednesday night.

Punjab Pradesh Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh campaigns for Shiromani Akali Dal-Delhi chief Paramjit Singh Sarna against the Badals at an election rally for the January 27 Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections in West Delhi. HT photo

The MLA, in turn, is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that Sarna retains power in the gurdwara elections. Bijender hosted a luncheon rally at his Nangloi farmhouse, inviting Sikhs from his Syed Nangloi assembly segment that overlaps Sarna's DSGMC constituency Punjabi Bagh.

Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh addressed Sarna's rally on Wednesday in Bijender's presence. "Sikhi ke niyamo ke hisab se chalane wale Sarna sahib yahaan hai, aur doosri taraf Sikhi ko nuksan pahunchane wale woh Badal… faisla aapke haath mein hai… (it's up to you to choose between the principled Sarna and the unprincipled Badals)" said Bijender, who was accompanied by the Captain on the dais.

Sarna had recently hosted a dinner in honour of Amarinder's wife and Congress MP Preneet Kaur. It was well-attended by the local Congress cadres, led by Bijender.

Mahabal Mishra, Congress MP from West Delhi, also campaigned for Sarna at a major rally. Addressing the gathering, he took potshots at the Badals.

When contacted, Delhi's urban development minister Arvinder Singh Lovely said the Sikhs of Delhi had always been with the Congress.

But he hastened to add, "The Congress keeps away from religious affairs. Congressmen are supporting Sarna's candidates in their personal capacity."

"The Congress has five Sikh MLAs in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha," said the two-time minister in the Sheila Dikshit government, while ruling out an "anti-Congress" wave among the Sikhs, as claimed by the SAD (Badal).

"Some leaders (involved in the 1984 riots) were from the Congress, but some Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) workers, who are now enjoying the Badals' support, were also there in large numbers," he said.

'Test case'
According to Rajendra Gupta, the BJP's Delhi unit president, the DSGMC elections are a "test case" for the assembly polls.

"Officially, both main parties are not participating since it is a religious affair. However, it's obvious that the Congress is supporting the Sarna group and the BJP is seeking mandate for the SAD (Badal)," Gupta said.

Compared to the senior Congress leadership's visibility during campaigning for the DSGMC polls, the BJP's presence has been limited so far.

The developments following Rajnath Singh's appointment as the BJP national president are being seen as the main reason for the senior party leadership's absence from the SAD (Badal) campaigning till now.

However, the saffron party has been busy canvassing for SAD general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who is pitted against Sarna. Sirsa is a former BJP councillor from Punjabi Bagh, the municipal ward currently represented by his wife.

Manoj Shokeen, BJP MLA from Mundka, is also putting his weight behind Sirsa. Shokeen is considered the favourite to retain his seat in the November assembly polls.

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