In an apparent move to woo the Sikh electorate ahead of the 2014 assembly polls, Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Sunday announced that a Bill for establishing the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (HSGPC) would be tabled in the monsoon session of the Haryana assembly. This would pave way for a separate Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee for Haryana. The session begins on July 11.
Addressing a well-attended Sikh convention called by the HSGPC leadership here, Hooda said the proposed Bill would ensure there was no political interference in the elections and the management of the proposed religious body.
The chief minister, however, refrained from touching a critical aspect of the legislation - the Bill will have to get a Presidential assent - in his address.
And with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime at the helm in the Centre, the prospects of the Bill getting mired in red tape and legal wrangling are palpable. In fact, the Haryana BJP on Friday took a somersault on the issue with the state BJP chief Ram Bilas Sharma conveying they were not in favour for a separate SGPC for Haryana. Also Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a key NDA ally, has vociferously opposed Haryana's move for establishment of a separate body.
The Congress government in Haryana, which kept delaying the matter for seven years, has now raked it in view of the impending assembly polls. The state government didn't push for a separate GPC when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was in power at the Centre, primarily because of reservations expressed by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh, a Sikh himself.
Meanwhile, Hooda urged the gathering at Kaithal to raise its hands if they favoured creation of a separate HSGPC. Amid chants of "Jo Bole So Nihal", the chief minister said the popular mandate of the community was accepted by his government.
In a scathing attack on Punjab's Akali leadership, Hooda said sentiments of Sikhs of Haryana must be respected by various quarters from Punjab.
"Demand of an independent committee was there when I was in the opposition. On assuming government charge of government, I was firm to respect the feelings of Sikh on their religious issue and asked for their official views," said Hooda while claiming that not even a single Sikh had furnished an affidavit to the Chattha Committee opposing the HSGPC.
Hinting at justifying delay of nine years in meeting the demand, Hooda said that he wanted to ensure that nobody's feelings were hurt.
"After getting nearly 3 lakh affidavits in support of HSGPC, feelings of Sikhs were evident. I got the recommendations of the Chattha committee examined legally and my government is convinced that it was an issue of sewa of shrines and had nothing to do with any political aspiration," he said.
Striking an emotional chord, Hooda said his family had close ties with the family of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
The HSGPC leaders, Jagdish Singh Jhinda and Didar Singh Nalwi, said the announcement had completed a long pending demand of the Sikhs of Haryana.
They said the step would help the better management improvement of gurdwaras in Haryana.
Meanwhile, the Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa also present on the occasion and lauded the role of the Hooda government for deciding to free the state shrines of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal).
Black flags waved to Hooda
A group of three Sikh youths showed black flags to chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda at the venue. As Hooda reached the spot, unidentified people raised flags but they were overpowered by the public. The protesters were not manhandled and the police rounded up them.