The General House of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) unanimously elected 74-year-old Kirpal Singh Badungar as its 41st president during a meeting at Teja Singh Samundri Hall here on Saturday.
He replaces Avtar Singh Makkar whose term ended on Saturday.
SGPC member Tota Singh, who is also a minister in the Punjab cabinet, opened an envelop sent by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and proposed Badungar’s name, which was endorsed by SGPC members Bibi Jagir Kaur and Navtej Singh Kauni.
Initially, some members opposed Badungar’s candidature and proposed the name of Surjit Singh Kalabula, an SGPC member from the Dhuri segment for the top post. But realising their thin number, they withdrew the demand and the House gave the formal acceptance to Badungar as president. However, Kalabula was taken in the 11-member executive panel.
Badungar, who hails from Patiala district, was the SGPC chief from November 2001 to July 2003 and was credited with implementing the Nanakshahi calendar. After being chosen for the top post, the new SGPC chief read out 16 resolutions, including demand for strict action against conspirators of the sacrilege incidents and perpetrators of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Apart from choosing other office-bearers, the SGPC House also appointed members of the Dharam Parchar Committee and the Sikh History Research Board.
The SGPC will help the SAD in the assembly elections in Punjab, which is seeing an insider-outsider and religion-tinged campaign in a field that has not only the Congress but also the Aam Aadmi Party this time. Most of the 170 members elected to the General House of the SGPC belong to the ruling Badals’ Akali Dal and every member has influence in his or her area. During the assembly elections, these members also campaign for the party.
Last evening, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal held a meeting with SGPC members to discuss the names of president and office-bearers.
Badungar fits the SAD’s criteria of being an educated leader acceptable to the larger Sikh diaspora and a non-confrontationist at a time when the party is heading for a high-stakes assembly election in three months.
The SGPC House also elected Baldev Singh Kiampuri as senior vice-president, Baba Buta Singh junior vice-president and Amarjeet Singh Chawla general secretary.
Executive committee members include Jaipal Singh, Nirmal Singh, Kulwant Singh Manan, Satpal Singh, Balwinder Singh Veinpuin, Baldev Singh Moga, Joginder Kaur, Ram Singh, Gurcharan Singh Grewal, Surjit Singh Kalabula and Surjit Singh Bhitewad.
Earlier in the day, SGPC member from SAS Nagar Hardeep Singh sought a debate on a series of sacrilege incidents of Guru Granth Sahib in the state when officiating Amritsar deputy commissioner Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal started speaking at the beginning of the House meeting.
Referring to Dhaliwal, independent MLA from Ludhiana Balwinder Singh Bains said how a person who trims his beard can preside over the SGPC meeting?
SGPC member Kuldeep Kaur Tohra, daughter of former SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra, also slammed the ruling SAD for failing to crack the sacrilege incidents..