Wednesday, November 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

This ‘win-win’ game at Golden Temple complex
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 12
In common parlance called the ‘mini-Parliament’, the SGPC, has over the years become a symbol of supremacy and power in Sikh affairs. It is this fact which has resulted in factional fights among the Akalis with the ruling establishment, whether of the Congress or the ruling faction of the Akalis. It is the combination of free inter-mixing of politico-religious tussle, which has also made it a game of high stakes.

Looking at the victory margin for the Badal group, it is clear that he is no longer the undisputed leader of the Sikh affairs. (The difference of votes scored by Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar and Sant Vir Singh Madhoke is 23). The fact that Tohra and his group has improved his voting strength by 10 votes in comparison with last year shows that this factional fight is not going to end. In all probability, it will get more intense in the days ahead, as elections to the SGPC general house get closer. These have already been delayed by over one year. These are now likely to take place in June, 2003, and the electoral rolls are expected to be in place by February-end.

Even if it is presumed that the ruling Congress government will remain neutral and keep away from the Akali factional fights in future it is not going to be easy for Mr Parkash Singh Badal, pitted as he is against an old master and a shrewd politician like Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

The very fact that Mr Badal had to take shelter in his Balasar farm-house, as well as in Chief Minister, Mr Om Parkash Chautala’s Lambi house in Haryana, could be a pointer that he cannot take his followers for granted. In other words, the fact that he is no longer controlling the reigns of the state, he will have to remain extra alert and agile to maintain his supremacy on the SGPC affairs.

It is no secret that Mr Tohra directly or indirectly enjoyed Congress support. In this, perhaps, the Congress establishment had certain calculations. But whatever might have those been in the public perception the Congress was overdoing the show of police force. The Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, has his own explanation, as the choice was between the devil and the deep sea. He could not afford to take chances because of apprehensions of ‘’violence and bloodshed’’ at the time of polling for SGPC presidential and executive committee election.

The election process conducted at the Golden Temple complex shows there has been no violence. Capt Amarinder Singh told TNS that as promised, the SGPC election had been ‘’fair and free’’ and the entire process passed off peacefully in Amritsar and in the state. He had a point when he said because of the timely and effective steps taken by his administration, even if these looked to be an overkill, it was possible to conduct the poll in accordance with ‘maryada’ and the Sikh traditions.

The decision for elaborate security arrangements was solely his and ‘’I am satisfied the way my instructions have been implemented. I compliment the state and district administration for the peaceful passing of the event’’. He regretted the “inconvenience’’ caused to the general public in view of the security bandobast, which was, anyway, unavoidable. The Captain reiterated. “It was between the Akalis, who wins or loses. It is wrong to say the government tried to influence the SGPC poll’’.

In fact, it will be unfair to dispute the claims of Capt Amarinder Singh because what he did was in the larger interest of maintaining peace, law and order. This, certainly, he can talk about as his plus point.

At the end of the day after all the hype, anxiety and uncertainty in the air, there are also lessons to be drawn by all those who were either directly or indirectly involved in controlling the SGPC executive. It is also a fact that after the overplay of police force better sense prevailed in Capt. Amarinder Singh’s camp, as well and the police was more reasonable and less provocative a day before the D-day.

But academically, what is talked about is, ‘’was the high-profile responses on the part of all major players necessary at all? Why should have Mr Badal taken shelter in Mr Chautala’s Haryana with his supporters? Why should have Capt. Amarinder Singh allowed two of his non-playing Captains to have an upper hand in directing the SGPC show on his behalf?

The overplay of the police card, which unnecessarily rattled the Sikh community was probably misplaced. Still he (Capt. Amarinder Singh) can legitimately take the credit for the peaceful end of the SGPC executive poll amidst the high tension power politics.

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