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Anti-Badal lobby in SGPC gets stronger as BJP comes closer to Sikhs

Bibi Jagir Kaur

Chandigarh: The BJP seems to be succeeding in moving closer to the Sikhs, going by the SGPC election results on Wednesday that showed an unprecedented increase of 20 votes for the anti-Badal faction in the house of 146 members who voted.

Advocate Harjinder Singh Dhami, the incumbent SGPC President, secured 104 votes, while the opposing candidate, Bibi Jagir Kaur, got 42 votes. She had defied the Badal family diktat and stepped into the fray to contest the crucial election for the SGPC, the Sikh organisation that manages all the gurdwaras.

In a significant achievement, Bibi Jagir Kaur also succeeded in getting three of her members included in the 15-member executive committee responsible for taking day-to-day decisions of the SGPC. Harjinder Singh Dhami’s presidency is bound to see a lot of questioning and opposition by the three executive committee members affiliated with Bibi

If the Badal-led Akali Dal’s allegations of BJP’s support to Bibi are assumed to be true, it implies that the anti-Badal forces in the SGPC have improved their performance by getting 20 votes more than the previous year.

During the campaign, the Shiromani Akali Dal leadership launched a scathing attack against Bibi Jagir Kaur alleging that she was backed by the powerful BJP and RSS. Akali Dal President Sukhbir Badal, senior leaders Daljeet Cheema, Virsa Singh Valtoha, Sikandar Singh Maluka, Mahesinder Grewal, and Balwinder Singh Bhundar, all alleged that Bibi was playing into the hands of the BJP.

Leaders like Manjinder Singh Sirsa and Iqbal Singh Lalpura as well as new entrants in the saffron party like Captain Amarinder Singh have been actively supporting Bibi’s campaign.

Bibi was extended support by Akalis who are opposed to the Badal family and had left the party or were expelled. These leaders included Akali Dal (Sanyukt) President Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Akali Dal (Amritsar) President and MP Simranjit Singh Mann, and Akali Dal (1920) President Ravi Inder Singh.

Addressing the media in front of Samundri Hall, Amritsar, after the election result, Grewal, Cheema, and Maluka termed it a defeat of the Modi-led BJP government at the centre, the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Haryana government and the Bhagwant Mann-led Punjab government. “Our candidate (Dhami) has defeated three governments. The Sikhs have rejected attempts to interfere in their religious affairs,” they claimed.

But a deeper analysis of the SGPC election result shows that the so-called BJP-supported lobby in the Sikh body has got stronger, now having the support of 42 members instead of 20 all these years.  In other words, BJP seems to be getting a bit of a foothold on the SGPC’s stage. Of late, it is also attracting leaders from different parties, who are now joining the saffron party.

Many Sikhs have now started appreciating the pro-Sikh stance of the Prime Minister, who devotes a lot of time to attend all Sikh festivals and Gurpurabs. His actions seem to be blunting the narrative set by vested interests that the BJP, hence Modi, are anti-minorities (read Sikhs). The active presence of “our own man” in the SGPC will ensure that Sikhs give fresh thought to the anti-BJP propaganda, opined Sikh leaders in the saffron party.

Modi had reached out to the Sikh masses on Gurpurab, saying, “… the country is moving ahead with the spirit of the welfare of 130 crore Indians inspired by the thoughts of Guru Nanak Dev.” He was attending the concluding ceremony of an ‘Akhand Path,” organised at the residence of Iqbal Singh Lalpura, Chairman Minorities Commission of India, on Tuesday.

Modi also participated previously in the 350th Parkash Gurpurab of Guru Gobind Singh, the 400th Parkash Gurupurab of Guru Teg Bahadur, and the 550th Parkash Gurupurab of Guru Nanak Dev. Lavish grants were given to the Punjab government and some Sikh bodies to celebrate the Gurupurabs.

PM Modi in a major initiative had recently laid the foundation stone of Rs 1200 crore ropeway to the sacred Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib.

Sikhs settled abroad now seem to be appreciating the all-embracing stance of Modi. In Dubai on Tuesday, while concluding the recitation of Gurbani, some 2000 Sikh settlers in  UAE recorded their appreciation of the Modi government in the presence of Satnam Singh Sandhu, an educationist, and global activist.

The Modi government also framed a policy to allow the Sikhs and Hindus citizenship of India, whom governments in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh were persecuting.

After the Congress Prime Minister refused to do away with the black list of Sikhs settled abroad, it was Modi who scrapped the list allowing the Sikhs to visit India without hindrance. The black list was prepared during the days of terrorism in Punjab. This fact has also been widely appreciated.

Sukhdev Dhindsa, a former MP and president of Akali Dal (Sanyukt) says, “how can anyone claim that the BJP is an anti-Sikh party when it is doing so much for the community?

SGPC comprises 191 members, out of which 15 are co-opted, besides six members are religious preachers having no voting rights. As many as 26 members died since 2011, and two resigned from the Sikh body.