After over a decade, the Shiromani Akali Dal-Delhi (SAD-D) led by Paramjit Singh Sarna lost its grip over the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), as the SAD-Badal won 37 of the 46 elected seats, according to results of the January 27 polls declared on Wednesday.
The Sarna group came down by over two-thirds -- nine seats from 28 -- and Sarna's own drubbing in Punjabi Bagh added insult to injury. Alternatively, Punjab's ruling party led by the state's deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal increased its tally threefold from the 12 seats it had won in the 2007 DSGMC elections. While one seat went to the Kendriya Sri Guru Singh Sabha (KSGSS), the Dashmesh Seva Society (DSS) failed to open its account.
Sarna, the incumbent DSGMC president, lost by the highest margin to SAD-B's young gun Manjinder Singh from Punjabi Bagh. While Sarna polled 4,552 votes, Manjinder got 9,006, the difference being 4,454 votes. Two main Badal loyalists - SAD-B's Delhi unit chief Manjit Singh GK from Greater Kailash and old warhorse Avtar Singh Hit from Hari Nagar -- sailed through. Manjit Singh GK had led a splinter group to victory at six seats in 2007, and later joined the Badals.
As the Badals - Sukhbir, and his father and CM Parkash Singh Badal -camped in the national capital along with their 50-odd MLAs from Punjab since mid-January, Sarna dubbed them "outsiders who failed to safeguard Sikh tenets", repeatedly bringing up the "corrupt practices" in the SAD-B-controlled Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) headquartered at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The SAD-B, which had its SGPC members too campaigning in Delhi, accused Sarna of dividing the community by labeling those from Punjab as outsiders.
But, primarily, the Badals harped on how the Sarna regime was "challenging the Akal Takht" by not following the modified Nanakshahi calendar, and how there was "widespread corruption in the DSGMC-run educational institutions". "These two issues actually worked," said SAD-B leader Tirlochan Singh, who accompanied CM Badal throughout the latter's 10-day campaign in Delhi.
Overall, while the anti-incumbency factor seems to have worked against the 11-year-old regime, Sarna was also not in a position to counter the SAD-B's charge that he was "an agent of the Congress party that carried out the anti-Sikh carnage in 1984". He did issue a statement at the fag end of canvassing that the Congress was not helping his party, but that ironically came in the backdrop of Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh rallying for him. Even Amarinder's wife Preneet Singh, who is a union minister, campaigned for Sarna.
The political heat, in fact, was visible from the start, with the Congress and the BJP helping their respective allies, the Sarna group and the Badals. But while Amarinder came out in open support of Sarna, the BJP's support to the Badals remained low-key with its cadres participating in small public meetings.
Reacting in Punjab, state BJP chief Kamal Sharma said on Wednesday stated that the DSGMC result was a reflection of the mood of the people in Delhi "who are increasingly losing faith in the Congress". "The outcome of the gurdwara polls shows that the Congress is not only on its way out in the coming assembly elections in Delhi but also in the general elections in 2014," Sharma stated, congratulating the Badals.
EYE ON ASSEMBLY
With the Delhi assembly polls due in November, the BJP may now have to face a tough bargain for seat-sharing from the SAD-B, its senior partner in Punjab's ruling coalition. In 2008, the SAD-B lost Rajouri Garden, the only assembly seat it contested on its own symbol (scales). The BJP had given ticket to three other SAD nominees but on its symbol, the lotus; all three had lost miserably.
"The BJP will, of course, get a boost with the win of the SAD-Badal in the gurdwara elections," was all that Delhi BJP chief Vijendra Gupta said during the campaigning. SAD-B general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra and Tirlochan Singh said they hoped that the BJP would "give weight to the SAD's aspirations in the Delhi assembly elections after these results".