BJP demand to contest gurdwara polls rattles partner Shiromani Akali Dal
The Amritsar-headquartered Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) manages historical gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, including the Golden Temple, and takes decision on appointments at three of the five Takhts (temporal seats).punjab Updated: Oct 12, 2017 11:34 IST
A demand by the Sikh cell of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeking representation in gurdwara bodies has rattled its alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
While leaders of the saffron party say the demand is as per the pact to contest “all” elections in alliance, some leaders in the Akali Dal see it as an attempt by the BJP to enter the Sikh bastion and breed leaders representing the community.
Both the bodies have crores of rupees of donation received annually at their disposal and run a number of educational and health institutions.
The demand was raised at a public function in national capital Delhi 10 days ago. Kuldeep Singh, president of the BJP Sikh cell, termed it genuine and said he was only talking as per the coalition arrangement.“BJP and Akali leaders have been contesting parliamentary and assembly polls in Delhi and Punjab together, so why not in gurdwara bodies? Of course, only, after reaching a consensus on the seat-sharing,” said Kuldeep, who says he’s with the BJP for 40 years now. “The BJP and Akalis have a political alliance, but the Akalis never allow the BJP to enter religious elections despite the party’s help from outside.”
“We are Sikhs. Why can’t we become members of the SGPC and DSGMC?” he asked. The SAD has majority in both the bodies.
The Amritsar-headquartered Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) manages historical gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, including the Golden Temple, and takes decision on appointments at three of the five Takhts (temporal seats).The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) manages gurdwaras in the national capital, and its president is seen as representing Sikhs living outside Punjab.
Both the bodies have crores of rupees of donation received annually at their disposal and run a number of educational and health institutions. Recently, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, a wing of the BJP’s parent Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), had demanded audit and scrutiny of SGPC funds, which had received sharp reaction from Akali leaders.
“The question (of BJP contesting) doesn’t arise. It is our religious matter, and we won’t let anyone enter. All are welcome in our gurdwaras, but they can’t take over its management,” said DSGMC president Manjit Singh GK of the SAD.
BJP national secretary RP Singh justified the demand: “What’s wrong in it? When the two parties have been together for many years, then what’s the wrong in contesting gurdwara polls the same way?”It must, however, be underlined that in Haryana the SAD went with the Indian National Lok Dal against the BJP citing “family ties” between the SAD’s Badals and the INLD’s Chautalas.
SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar simply said, “The matter is of the level of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal — whether he wants to give representation to the BJP in religious bodies or not.”
Sikh radical bodies, which have for many years been alleging “direct and indirect interference” of BJP and RSS in Sikh affairs, are not impressed. Dal Khalsa spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh Bittu said, “No Sikh will tolerate BJP’s presence in Sikh religious institutions. This demand is a fresh move towards BJP’s straight inroads into Sikh affairs. The SAD’s alliance with BJP has already damaged prospects of Sikhs. We will oppose any further damage.”