Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday termed the move of the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Haryana government to set up a separate committee for managing Sikh shrines in the state "illegal and patently wrong" as well as "politically motivated".
"It is a desperate attempt on the part of Congress to hand over the control of gurdwaras to its agents in Haryana. This ill-conceived move is aimed at dividing Sikhs on one hand and destabilizing the Sikh panth on the other," Badal said at a function in Mohali.
The Hooda government had on Friday got a bill passed in the Haryana assembly for the setting up of the Haryana Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (HSGPC). Sikh shrines in Haryana are so far managed by the Amritsar-based SGPC.
Badal said: "The Haryana Congress is following the footsteps of the erstwhile British government who appointed their stooges (Mahants) to run the affairs of gurdwaras in the pre-SGPC period as a result of which Gurdwara reforms movement was initiated, which led to the formation of the SGPC in 1925 after countless sacrifices by the Sikhs."
The chief minister said that Sikhs from Haryana never wanted the HSGPC.
"This was aptly proved in the last general elections of SGPC when all the 11 seats in Haryana were captured by the Shiromani Akali Dal with a thumping majority whereas so called protagonist of HSGPC like (Jagdish Singh) Jinda and Nalwi were badly trounced and could not even save their security deposits from forfeiture.
"These cronies are playing into the hands of Haryana Congress in furtherance of its political motives, eyeing on the forthcoming state assembly elections," Badal said.
Slamming the Haryana Congress for including the demand of HSGPC in its election manifesto with an ulterior motive to exploit the religious sentiments of Sikhs living there, Badal said that the entire episode for the creation of separate committee was merely a political gimmick of Congress.
He claimed that the Hooda government's attempts to create the HSGPC earlier were scuttled by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who never allowed them to meddle in the religious affairs of Sikhs.