Friday, December 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Talwandi replaces Bibi
Jubilation in Tohra, Mann camps
From Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Nov 30 — A veteran Akali leader, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, once a ‘sworn enemy’ of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, replaced controversial SGPC President Bibi Jagir Kaur at the general house meeting, held here in Teja Singh Samundari Hall, with a voice vote. He has become 31st president of the SGPC, known as the ‘mini parliament’ of the Sikhs since the passing of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President of the Sarb-Hind Shiromani Akali Dal and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, chief of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), who seemed happy over the replacement of Bibi Jagir Kaur, were among those who congratulated Mr Talwandi on his selection. The selection of Mr Talwandi, who was responsible for toppling the Badal government in the seventies, became a ‘compulsion’ as there was hardly any senior leader among the SGPC members who could replace Bibi Jagir Kaur.

Since Bibi Jagir Kaur was neck-deep in controversy and was facing CBI charges in connection with the death of her daughter, the ruling party had to opt for Mr Talwandi.

Interestingly, Mr Talwandi himself was not sure till 1 pm that his name had been finalised by Mr Badal. Earlier, the name of Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister, was cleared for the coveted post by Mr Badal last evening. However, one of the general secretaries of the SAD insisted that Mr Mohinder Singh Romana, a senior member, be elected as president.

Mr Balbir Singh Naushehra Pannu, Mr Kewal Singh Badal and Bibi Kiranjot Kaur have been elected Senior Vice-President, Vice-President and General Secretary of the SGPC, respectively. The executive members are Mr Dilbag Singh, Mr Shingara Singh, Mr Suba Singh, Mr Hardial Singh, Mr Raghbir Singh, Mr Mohinder Singh Romana, Mr Joginder Singh Panjrath and Mr Jang Bahadur Singh Rai, who belong to the ruling party.

Besides, Mr Onkar Singh Sharifpura and Mr Harbans Singh Manjpur (SHSAD) and Mr Baldev Singh Sehjara (Akali Dal-Amritsar) were elected executive members. Mr Hardalbir Singh Shah, general secretary, who was an aspirant for the presidentship, was dropped even from the executive.

Before the beginning of the formal proceedings, Mr Badungar opened the sealed envelop containing the names of the office-bearers and executive members of his faction.

Earlier, Mr Tohra and Mr Mann had announced that they would field a common candidate if the ruling party proposed the name of Bibi Jagir Kaur or Mr Sucha Singh Langah for the presidentship of the SGPC.

The opposition members, including Mr Tohra, were so happy over the removal of Bibi Jagir Kaur that they announced that their ‘goal’ stood achieved. They alleged that Bibi Jagir Kaur was responsible for the denigration of Akal Takht and bringing a bad name to the great institution like the SGPC. Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, a former SGPC secretary, said that though Bibi Jagir Kaur was excommunicated from the Sikh Panth, she never accepted the verdict of Akal Takht. Instead, she got Giani Puran Singh removed as jathedar.

At the outset, Bibi Jagir Kaur sought forgiveness from the Sikh ‘sangat’ for the works left incomplete or any shortcoming during her tenure.

Mr Tohra criticised the heavy deployment of Punjab police inside and outside Teja Singh Samundari Hall — the venue of the meeting. He said the SGPC and SAD had been fighting against the entry of the police in the SGPC complex. However, it was a ‘matter of shame’ that the ruling SAD government itself resorted to use of force for conducting the meeting of the SGPC. He said the task force of the SGPC should have been deployed for this cause. Earlier, opposition members raised slogans like “Punjab police murdabad.”

The outgoing president Bibi Jagir Kaur said she was happy that the meeting had been conducted smoothly. She said she and her supporters would extend whole-hearted support to Mr Talwandi. When asked why she was not renominated, she quipped, “Ask those who had taken the decision” Bibi Jagir Kaur was looking shattered after her removal. Only a few staunch supporters were left with her after the appointment of the new president of the SGPC.

Immediately after the election of Mr Talwandi, a senior SGPC official ‘locked the rooms of Mr Harjit Singh, personal assistant to Bibi Jagir Kaur and in charge of establishment. Eyewitnesses said that a physical search of some pro-Bibi officials was also carried out, reportedly to check that they were not taking important documents. Talking to newsmen, Mr Talwandi said that he would seek support from all SGPC members, including Tohra and Mann supporters for streamlining the SGPC. When asked as to why Mr Tohra was happy over his appointment, he asked, “Is there anybody who is unhappy”. Outlining his priorities after taking over as the SGPC chief, Mr Talwandi said he would launch a campaign against ‘pattitpuna’ (addiction). He said he would try to bring all Akali workers on a single platform in the larger interest of the Panth.

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