Who will make it? Race for SGPC top post hots up ahead of Nov 29 elections
Badungar, though a prominent face, has landed himself into a controversy by justifying the demand for Khalistan, which Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders say was not on the agenda of party.punjab Updated: Nov 13, 2017 09:57 IST
Come November 29, the General House of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) will meet for the annual ritual of electing its president.
Incumbent chief Kirpal Singh Badungar, former president Bibi Jagir Kaur, Akali leaders Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Rajinder Singh Mehta and sitting SGPC general secretary Amarjeet Singh Chawla are in the race to take over the top post. Badungar, though a prominent face, has landed himself into a controversy by justifying the demand for Khalistan, which Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders say was not on the agenda of party.
Also, a large number of appointments made by Badungar in the past one year are under scanner of the party high-ups, including SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal.
- 191 Total members
- 185 Members in general body
- 170 Elected members (Of these ten had died)
- 15 Co-opted members (Badungar is among them)
- 6 Members from the clergy, who have no role in election process
“He (Badungar) had recruited five secretaries to look after the SGPC work, ignoring rules and regulations for recruitment of secretary-level staff, which mandated educational qualification of post-graduation,” said former SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar.
Badungar had also overruled a resolution of the previous body in this regard. On being contacted, he refused to talk on the matter. Bibi Jagir Kaur is out on bail in a case of forcible abortion of her daughter leading to death, in which she was convicted to five-year imprisonment. She was given bail by the Punjab and Haryana high court in 2012, when she filed an appeal, after spending seven months in prison.
But despite the case, she is one of the few Akali leaders who stick their neck out on the most crucial issues concerning the party. Sekhwan and Mehta are not favourites of the party. Sekhwan had raised his voice against top party leadership for its poor show in the assembly polls. Mehta, along with Makkar, is blamed for mismanaging the Sikh affairs post-Bargari crisis when two Sikh activists were killed during a peaceful protest in 2015. In the aftermath of the incident, Sikh radicals held a ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ and formed a parallel clergy.
Though the parallel clergy has no relevance in the present religio-political system, but it time and again exerts pressure on the mainstream Akali set-up.
“Amarjeet Singh Chawla is still to gain experience to get the top post,” said a senior party leader. Shekhwan is also a member of SAD core committee.
36 members ‘in touch’ with Bhaur
Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, who remained acting president of the SGPC from 1996 to1999 and general secretary for 16 years but left the SAD and SGPC in 2015 after the Bargari incident as a mark of protest, is trying to build a consensus among the members who are opposed to the SAD, led by Sukhbir Singh Badal.
“I have met three dozen members. I am going against the current. Let us see what happens on November 29,” he said while talking to HT, hinting that he may propose a name for the post of president as against the one supported by the SAD. He said in a large number of cases, family members of incumbents sitting on top posts in SGPC were recruited in the committee in the past one year.
“It’s nothing short of rule of mahants, against whom Sikhs fought to form SGPC in 1920s,” said Bhaur.
He blamed the present set up in the SGPC for giving prominence to family members of the high-ups in the gurdwara body.
Moreover, the SAD had failed to protect the dignity and respect of Guru Granth Sahib and the Akal Takht during its government and they interfere too much in the functioning, he added.