The Supreme Court verdict on the misuse of religion and caste by political parties has sent ripples among the political parties in poll-bound Punjab, where sacrilege is an issue, and radical Panthic outfits have also decided to field candidates.
While the Congress called the judgment a blow to the ruling party, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the latter sought to downplay it by saying they had never used religion to seek votes.
Referring to the SC verdict that politicians can’t use religion, caste, creed or language for seeking votes, state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh said the order has far reaching implications for Punjab where the Akalis have always misused religion to seek votes. He said even today, Akali leaders were taking people to gurdwaras and making them swear their support to the SAD.
Amarinder alleged that many Akali leaders were holding ‘ardaas’ outside gurdwaras to influence people to cast their vote on basis of their religion. He also accused the Akalis of misusing the Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for electoral purposes.
The SAD, however, put up a brave front on the issue. “There is no doubt that the SAD is a party for which Sikhism is a core value and politics and religion in Punjab are in a way inseparable. But it is a disciplined party and has never used religion, caste, etc for elections. We never seek votes in the name of religion. And there will be no impact of the SC judgment on our politics or on Punjab elections,” said Akali MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.
Gurdeep Singh Bathinda of the United Akali Dal (UAD) said the SC judgment was not in line with spirit of the Constitution. “The Constitution provides for minorities to form their representative bodies and participate in all democratic processes of the country, including elections. It is also already well understood that while an outfit can represent the concerns of the minority it is representing, it cannot go against another religion or the nation,” he said.
When contacted, Aam Aadmi Party leader and senior advocate HS Phoolka said the party hailed the SC judgment. “The need for such a judgment arose because parties like the Akali Dal and the BJP had been misusing religion for political interests. The judgment also upholds the sanctity of religion ensuring that it is not treated as an instrument to be misused,” he said.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO PATNA SAHIB
Be it the Badals, Amarinder or AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal, political leaders of all hues in Punjab are making beeline for the Takht Patna Sahib gurdwara to celebrate the 350th birth anniversary of the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, founder of the Khalsa.
While Kejriwal paid obeisance at the Patna-based gurdwara on Monday, Amarinder said he will be going there on Tuesday. Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Badal are slated to reach Patna on January 5.
The Badal government is already running ten free trains and 100 buses to ferry passengers from Punjab to Patna for the anniversary celebrations.