Mild manners, academic credentials and clean image paid for Kirpal Singh Badungar, 74, who was anointed to the top seat of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Saturday. He has the outlook of an individual acceptable to most among the Sikh community, which earned him the honour for the second time.
“Among the available lot of SGPC members, he (Badungar) is the best. He is experienced and knows inside out of Sikh history and ethos. To head this institution in line with the aspirations of the panth is a big challenge and Badungar is capable of performing to the satisfaction of one and all,” said Punjabi University vice-chancellor Dr Jaspal Singh.
“I am a humble man and this duty has humbled me further,” said Badungar, who stands at only 5’3”.
He is known as a non-confrontationist, pliant and has good equations even with Badal-baiters on the radical side. A post-graduate in English literature, the new SGPC president has written six books on principles of Sikhism, is well versed with the panthic idiom and understands well the intricacies of the system. He belongs to Badungar village in Patiala district and represents the other backward classes (OBS). That way he fits well in the Akali scheme of things for polls.
Badungar remained secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal for five year (1996-2001), so, knows the functioning of the party that controls the SGPC. Close to Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, he belongs to the old school of thoughts and connects well with the urban as well as rural population.
After doing ‘Gyani’ from Punjabi University, he did post-graduation in English literature. He taught at a school for a few years before joining the Akali Dal.
“Badungar belongs to a family having a rural background and he is connected to the rural population. This has a big plus in his favour. Moreover, he has emerged as the most accepted individual among the members,” said Balkar Singh, former head of Guru Granth department of Punjabi University.
He became SGPC president for first time in November 2001, taking over form Bibi Jagir Kaur, when she was caught in a legal tangle in connection with her daughter’s death. At that time, he was nominated to the SGPC general house to make him eligible for the top post.
In 2003, he moved out of the office without a fuss when Gurcharan Singh Tohra mended fences with Parkash Singh Badal.
His previous tenure is remembered for UNESCO’s approaching the SGPC to get the heritage status for Golden Temple and the release of the Nanakshahi calendar.
Assembly polls are approaching and Shiromani Akali Dal desperately needs to beef-up ties with the Sikh panth. Badungar has a big role to play.