SGPC polls to see ‘envelope culture’ again
With the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal calling a meeting of all SAD-affiliated SGPC members at the Teja Singh Samundri Hall, the headquarters of the gurdwara body on Tuesday at 4pm, the ‘envelope culture’ to elect the president of the gurdwara management body looks set to continue. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) will elect its president on November 29 (Wednesday). Members associated with the SAD are in the majority in the SGPC House.
Officially, Tuesday’s meeting has been called to take suggestions from members. However, at the meeting, all members are expected to provide the right to elect the president of the SGPC to SAD president Sukhbir. The ‘envelope culture’ came into vogue after the demise of Gurcharan Singh Tohra in 2004. Before this, the SGPC members used to exercise their franchise.
Under the envelope culture, SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal and the SAD president Sukhbir name the new SGPC president in an envelope and have it opened in the general House meeting on the election day. During most recent previous elections, former SAD minister Daljit Singh Cheema has been bringing the Badals’ envelope to the House meeting.
The envelope is handed over to an SGPC member, loyal to the Badals, and the name on it is announced. Two other members endorse the name, with the rest of the members giving their approval by raising their hands, amid sloganeering of ‘Jo Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akal’. After this, the next SGPC president is considered to be elected unanimously.
Sukhbir has held one-on-one meetings this yr
This year, Sukhbir has held one-on-one meetings with SGPC members on November 23 and November 24, where he sought to redress their grievances and asked for suggestions on the name of the president. A few anti-Badal SGPC members have slammed the system as undemocratic and want it to change.
“Under this system, the new president does not reflect the will of the SGPC members. Members should discard the system and choose a religious figure on their own,” said advocate Jaswinder Singh, an SGPC member for 17 years.
Gurcharan Singh Grewal, an SGPC member affiliated with the SAD, says, “Contrary to previous years, the party president gave time to SGPC members in Chandigarh (on November 23 and 24). He asked them about the performance of incumbent president Kirpal Singh Badungar and recorded their suggestions, including their choice for the post.”
Justifying the practice, SGPC executive member Ram Singh also referred to the two-day meeting. “There is no other instance in democracy, where a party chief accommodates party leaders in this way,” he said. “If the party chief allots poll tickets to members, why should the latter not give all the rights to the former. Naming it as a Lifafa (envelope) culture is a misleading propaganda that the opponents of the SAD and the SGPC are spreading,” he added.
Anti-SAD SGPC members like Sukhdev Singh Bhaur have said that they would not let the system be successful this time.
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