The battle for electing the head of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), an apex Sikh body that controls Gurdwaras across the country, has turned bitter with former chief Bibi Jagir Kaur refusing to opt out even after being expelled from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
Interestingly, a day ahead of Wednesday’s poll, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal appealed to the expelled leader Bibi Kaur to review her decision of contesting against party candidate Harjinder Singh Dhami. The appeal came after Badal held a meeting with the SGPC members to access the situation. Those supporting Kaur termed it as “nervousness" on part of the SAD chief fearing that his candidate could lose.
Badal has blamed the BJP and AAP for interfering unduly in Sikh religious affairs and attempting to wrest control of SGPC to weaken the SAD. “I appeal to Bibi jee (Kaur) to still rethink her move in the morning and let Dhami Saheb win unanimously. I request her not to work at the behest of BJP and AAP for damaging Sikh panth," he said.
While SAD leaders downplayed the threat from Kaur, the former SGPC Chief was confident of a victory. She claimed that 90 members have already shown solidarity with her. “I am confident that this number would go up by tomorrow morning," she said.
“Most of them were hesitant to come out openly for fear of backlash from the party leadership. It has been a routine that any member who raised voice or pointed out wrong moves of the party faced ejection”, she said.
She said that she was expelled “unconstitutionally" from a group of SAD leaders who seldom knew that she was sitting at the roots of SAD.
SAD candidate Dhami too claimed the support of the majority of members. “It will be a one-sided affair," he said.
The SGPC’s house comprises a total of 191 members, including the 15 co-opted members, five Takht Jathedars and Golden Temple head granthi. As many as 170 are elected through ballot papers. The 15 co-opted members, Jathedars and head granthi have no voting rights. At present, the House consists of 157 members.
Interestingly, the spotlight will also be on the BJP-aligned members in the SGPC. In a first, the BJP could also have a say with several SGPC members, including Harpal Singh Jallah, Jaswinder Kaur Zira and Surjit Singh Garhi, of Rajpura in Patiala now associated with the saffron party.
Meanwhile, two more members from Barnala raised a banner of revolt and announced support for Kaur in the panel election.
They have also appealed to all members to free the SGPC from the “clutches" of SAD president Badal, for allegedly failing to deliver justice in cases about the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.
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