Wednesday, November 28, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Badal’s OSD Badungar is SGPC chief
Talwandi, Josh tear their ballot papers
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra makes a point with newly elected President Kirpal Singh Badungar on Tuesday. — Photo Rajiv Sharma

Amritsar, November 27
Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister and Secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal, today became the 32nd President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, even as Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi and Mr Puran Singh Josh, veteran member of the ruling party, tore their ballot papers in protest against the nomination of Mr Badungar as he allegedly has links with an ex-communicated Sikh, Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara.

While Mr Badungar got 112 votes, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, joint candidate of the Panthic Morcha, polled 56 votes. At least seven members belonging to the ruling party indulged in cross-voting while two members refused to exercise their votes.

It is for the first time that any member, especially an SGPC chief who is incidentally also the chairman of the Disciplinary Action Committee of the party, has defied the party’s directive and torn ballot papers during the general house meeting, attended by 170 members.

An agitated Mr Talwandi said that he could not cast his vote in favour of Mr Badungar who had allegedly frequently visited the dera of Baba Bhaniara. Mr Puran Singh Josh, followed suit and tore his ballot paper on similar grounds.

Mr Talwandi left the place after conducting the election of the SGPC chief and he did not take part in the proceedings which followed.

This is being considered a setback to the ruling party, especially at a time when Assembly elections are round the corner.

Earlier, pandemonium prevailed in the general house meeting. Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra stood before the mike and lodged a protest for giving “control” of the SGPC complex to the Punjab police. He was confronted by ruling party members and Mr Zora Singh Mann, a Member of Parliament from Ferozepore, snatched the mike from him.

Mr Tohra insisted that he would not sit unless a resolution was passed against the conversion of the SGPC complex into a police cantonment.

Commotion prevailed in Teja Singh Samundari Hall, the venue of the meeting, and the proceedings were delayed by half an hour.

Mr Talwandi announced that the House had condemned the action of the Punjab police and task force of the SGPC. The Tohra camp also condemned the misbehaviour of the task force with mediapersons.

Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, Rajya Sabha Member, has been camping in a room of the SGPC complex while Mr Sukhdev Singh Brar, SSP, Batala, has been keeping Mr Parkash Singh Badal informed about the developments.

Commotion again prevailed when Panthic Morcha leaders claimed that at least four of their members be nominated for the executive body as their strength had increased, with seven members crossing the floor. This was not accepted by the ruling party and, hence, voting for the post of senior vice-president was resorted to. Since many members had already left the venue, Mr Alwinder Singh Pakhowal of the ruling party was elected senior vice-president with 109 votes by defeating his rival Atma Singh Barnala who got 48 votes.

The Panthic Morcha leaders, including Mr Tohra, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann and Mr Harbans Singh Manjpur, alleged that by nominating Mr Badungar, a coopted member of the SGPC, as president of the “mini-parliament of Sikhs”, the ruling party had violated democratic norms as he (Mr Badungar) did not represent any constituency. Mr Tohra alleged that some members of Mr Badungar were ‘patit’ (apostate) and, hence, he should not have been made the SGPC chief.

Interestingly, Mr Tohra, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra and Mr Talwandi had a closed-door meeting before going to the general house. Earlier, closed-door meetings of the ruling party and Panthic Morcha members were held at different places.

The Panthic Morcha leaders alleged that it was for first time that an Officer on Special Duty to a Chief Minister who is a government employee had been made SGPC chief.

Mr Kewal Singh Badal was elected junior vice-president. He defeated Mr Jaswant Singh Taan of the Panthic Morcha. However, with a view to winning over Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, the Panthic Morcha did not field any of its candidate for the post of general secretary.

When the Panthic Morcha decided to contest the posts of executive members through secret ballots, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, SAD (Amritsar), intervened and urged Mr Tohra and other leaders of the Panthic Morcha to elect the body with voice vote. He prevailed upon Mr Tohra and the Panthic Morcha got satisfied with the three members instead of four.

The executive body included Dr Jang Bahadur Singh Rai, Mr Shingara Singh Lohian, Mr Joginder Singh Panjrath, Mr Suba Singh Dabwali, Mr Hardyal Singh, Mr Bakshish Singh Dhirowali, Giani Raghbir Singh and Mr Mohinder Singh Romana — all from the ruling Akali Dal. The three members of the Panthic Morcha are Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Mr Hardip Singh and Mr Jaswant Singh.Back


Badungar election hits unity move
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 27
With the election of Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, an OSD to Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the on going unity efforts suffered a setback.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President, Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, and leaders of other rival Akali factions had announced that they would not field any candidate of the Panthic Morcha if the ruling party fielded Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi or Mr Mal Singh Ghuman, Chairman, Punjab Mandi Board.

Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, a former President, Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee, who had been making efforts to bring a rapprochement among the warring Akali factions, said Mr Badal had missed a golden opportunity.Back


Talwandi guilty of ‘contempt’ of Takht?
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 27
Speculation is rife about the summoning of Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi at Akal Takht after his ouster as SGPC chief.

Mr Talwandi has been at loggerheads with his new successor, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, and the Jathedar Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, on certain Panthic issues. Though Mr Badungar has been given a clean chit by Akal Takht for having any links with the ex-communicated Baba Bhaniara, he (Mr Talwandi) raked up the issue again. This could be considered as ‘contempt’ of Akal Takht.

Earlier too, Mr Talwandi has criticised the high priests and described the message of Jathedar Vedanti as a “bundle of white lies”.

Immediately after taking over as SGPC chief, Mr Talwandi had appointed Giani Puran Singh as Head Granthi of the Golden Temple. This had annoyed three high priests who were ex-communicated from the Sikh Panth through a controversial edict issued by him in his capacity as Jathedar of Akal Takht.

Giani Puran Singh had also ex-communicated Bibi Jagir Kaur through another edict which she had not accepted.

Again, Mr Talwandi had challenged the “mild” tankhah awarded to private publishers of the holy Guru Granth Sahib.

Akal Takh had also revived the case of Mr Talwandi for honouring Kashmira Singh, a Canada-based ex-communicated Sikh who visited the Golden Temple along with Mr Ujjal Dosanj, the then premier of British Columbia. Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Kesgarh Sahib, has said Mr Talwandi’s unsavoury remarks against Mr Badungar were uncalled for as he (Mr Badungar) had already been bailed out by the Sikh clergy.

Since Mr Talwandi has virtually annoyed Mr Badal and Mr Badungar by again raking up the issue of Baba Bhaniara, they may not intervene if the Sikh clergy opted to summon him at Akal Takht.Back



SGPC resolution against Talwandi
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 27
In absence of the Panthic Morcha members, the SGPC general house today passed a resolution, condemning the unsavoury remarks of the outgoing president, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, against the Sikh clergy on the eve of Divali.

In yet another resolution, the house condemned Mr Talwandi for using derogatory language against Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, secretary SGPC, in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib and the Sikh high priests. Both resolutions were read out by Bibi Jagir Kaur.Back


Badal breaks Tohra’s citadel
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 27
Intense speculation about the prospects of Akali unity in the run up to the Assembly elections in Punjab has taken a severe beating judging by the outcome of the SGPC (Amritsar) presidential contest.

The direct fight for the presidentship of the SGPC between the nominee of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his arch rival Gurcharan Singh Tohra has once again brought to the fore the fractious and unbending nature of Akali politics.

The mood in Mr Badal’s camp, who is convalescing after a successful operation in a private hospital here, is upbeat because of the runaway victory of Chief Minister’s confidant Kirpal Singh Badungar.

Mr Tohra’s candidate for the SGPC presidentship, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, polled less than 40 per cent of the votes and barely posed a challenge to the Chief Minister’s Officer on Special Duty.

Impartial observers here are emphatic that all the talk of a possible Akali unity when Mr Tohra met Mr Badal in the hospital here on November 19 after a gap of two years has come crashing down. The all too brief Badal-Tohra interface on the eve of the Chief Minister’s operation could have hardly set the road map for any Akali unity. Prior to this, the Chief Minister and Mr Tohra had avoided coming face to face even at religious or social functions.

The Badal camp is on a new high that despite being confined to a hospital bed over the past eight days, Mr Badal has displayed his supremacy in influencing the Sikh votes in the SGPC presidential elections. They maintain that Mr Tohra’s stranglehold on the SGPC members is now a thing of the past.

Simultaneously, it is argued that in both the Badal and Tohra factions of the Akali Dal, there is a strong section against any rapprochement between the two leaders. Yet, there are others who are convinced that forging Akali unity could go a long way in meeting the challenge of the Congress in the Assembly elections in Punjab scheduled to be held in the first quarter of the next year.

Strategists of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) contend that other factions of the SAD are virtually out of reckoning in any leadership sweepstakes. On his part, Mr Badal is longing to get back on the campaign trail, having stolen a march in this regard over all others, including the Congress, which insists that it has more than an even chance of regaining power in Punjab.Back

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