Sukhbir banks on Golden Temple jazz-up to revamp Akalis’ fortune in elections
The inauguration of Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal’s pet project of revamping the precincts of the Golden Temple, Amritsar, just three months before polls could be a perception changer that the beleaguered Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has been banking on.punjab Updated: Oct 27, 2016 10:13 IST
The inauguration of Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal’s pet project of revamping the precincts of the Golden Temple, Amritsar, just three months before polls could be a perception changer that the beleaguered Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has been banking on.
Faced with acute anti-incumbency of its 10-year rule, the party’s shrewd chief has created an attraction that will resonate with visitors to the Golden Temple and remembered as the only achievement of his party that even his worst critics have nothing to say against. With the completion of the Rs 300-crore ambitious project, it is clear that the SAD hopes to cement its core panthic vote bank, establishing itself as the real repository of Sikh sentiments.
The timing of the inauguration is not lost on anyone. The various elements of the project were almost rushed through to avoid the code of conduct deadline and majority of the work was completed at breakneck speed. The refurbishing of the old, dying Town Hall building that now houses the partition museum—a part of which was also inaugurated on Monday—was done in less than one year. The architecturally controlled facades, access controlled heritage walk, old world charm lighting complete with mega screens that would play live kirtan relayed by the PTC channel from the Darbar Sahib, took a little over one year to complete.
The aim is to showcase the project to the lakhs of devotees who throng Golden Temple on Diwali and the scores of NRI Punjabis who will be in India on the year end. Besides, the SAD is organising special buses for devotees from all the constituencies to be brought to Amritsar and shown the spectacular achievement.
A special entourage of security men has been posted near the temple precincts to ensure that the project retains its pristine glory for visitors over the next few months. The biggest challenge is the last one-kilometre stretch to the Golden Temple—the heritage walk—that depicts a change so stark that it is impossible to imagine that a year ago the place was just another crowded old city market, full of filth, encroachments and stray animals.
Inside the Golden Temple complex, under the plaza, is the interpretation centre with state-of-the-art screens depicting the history of the Golden Temple gurdwaras. As the animated history of the Golden Temple is played, the role played by the SAD and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in Sikh history has been subtly weaved in.
Sure of his “victory” in the polls, a confident Sukhbir, who himself led the state’s media through the heritage walk on Monday, said in the next five years, the entire walled city will be converted into an exemplary religious destination.
With a view to blunt allegations of the Akalis being arrogant and power-drunk, the Badals made all the right noises during the inauguration ceremony on Tuesday. “The project is not aimed at taking credit but to serve the almighty. It is sewa. A ‘daas’ (servant) was given the opportunity to serve Him,” said Sukhbir.