An intense contest is building up for control of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in fray for the first time, besides the incumbent Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of the Badals and the SAD (Delhi). The question on everyone’s mind, thus, is: What’s at stake? A lot.
An annual budget of Rs 100 crore, nine historical gurdwaras to manage, schools, colleges, hospitals, and control over Sikh matters, besides global connections and direct links with the all-powerful central government. Also, the one who becomes the DSGMC president becomes leader of Sikhs, particularly of the 8 lakh-odd living in the national capital. Essentially, it is second only to the Amritsar-headquartered Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). At present, the SAD of the Badals controls the DSGMC.
“Despite our internal problems, the DSGMC is a prestigious organisation of the Sikhs, and anyone who takes over as its president becomes a leader of Sikhs and wields huge clout in the central government,” said Jaspal Singh, former vice-president of the DSGMC, who is now into his fourth term as vicechancellor of Punjabi University at Patiala. “It is a role model for other communities, in the way it manages shrines and educational institutions,” he added.
With polling set for February 26 and results scheduled for March 1, 425 candidates remained in fray for the 46 seats after filing of nominations concluded on Wednesday. Scrutiny of papers would take place on Thursday. The gurdwara poll panel is identifying sensitive and hypersensitive polling stations out of the 559 where voting will be held.
BADALS’ DAL VS AAP
Manjit Singh GK, the incumbent president, said, “In 2013, our party won the polls after a gap of 12 years, and we will not want to lose easily. The polls now are a test for me, especially when we have done so much during the past four years.”
He added that the SAD’s victory would be a “reply” to Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is in Punjab poll fray and is also “dabbling in religious matters of the Sikhs”. Results of the Punjab assembly polls, held on February 4, are scheduled for March 11.
The gurdwara polls, according to GK, are important for SAD’s ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too, in view of the polls to municipal corporation of Delhi (MCD) in April. “Results of our polls will have bearing on those polls, because there are a large number of Sikhs living in the MCD wards, more than double the voters in DSGMC polls. In the DSGMC polls, only Sikhs with unshorn hair can vote, who are less than half the total number of Sikhs in Delhi.”
The AAP is seen as backing a third front, and that makes these polls different from the previous ones, said Tarlochan Singh, former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.