The Punjab government on Wednesday gave its nod to the Centre for conduct of polls to elect new office-bearers of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on November 5.
A notification by the Union home ministry is expected within this week. Sources in the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) said the state government has recommended the date.
After a formal notification, as per provisions of the Gurdwaras Act 1925, the Union government will depute a representative — likely to be the deputy commissioner of Amritsar — to start the process. The general house of 170 elected members will choose the 15-member executive body to further elect a president, general secretary and other office-bearers.
SGPC chief secretary Harcharan Singh said the process has begun “as the state government has given its concurrence”. It may lead to removal of current SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar, further leading to a race among different SGPC members for the coveted post.
Functioning of the SGPC was in limbo since 2011 because of a stay by the Supreme Court over a procedural discrepancy. It started when voting rights of Sehajdhari Sikhs to elect SGPC members were taken away in 2003, by way of a notification by the Union home ministry. Sehajdharis moved the Punjab and Haryana high court that stayed the SGPC functioning in 2011 just after the election of members was held. Then, the SGPC moved the SC, which asked the executive body working before 2011 to continue to manage day-to-day functioning as an interim arrangement.
The SC wanted that procedure given in the act of 1925 be followed and the said Act be amended by both the houses of Parliament if the voting rights of Sehajdharis were to be taken away. After that was done, last month the SC reinstated the board of members of the SGPC elected in 2011.
The SAD that runs the Punjab government and also controls the SGPC — seen as the mini-parliament of Sikhs — is behind the amendment to the Act. The move, the SAD belives, can help woo back religious-minded, ‘panthic’ voters who were feeling alienated after a series of sacrilege incidents since last year.