Wednesday, June 4, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Badal to consult aides today
Meeting clergy tomorrow
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 3
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, would hold in-camera meeting with his close aides, including members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Sikh scholars here tomorrow, ahead of his June 5 meeting with the Sikh clergy.

The Sikh high priests have invited Mr Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra separately for “consultation” on the contents of the letter written to the Jathedar of Akal Takht. Though Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti had categorically denied that Akal Takht was mediating to bring unity between Mr Badal and Mr Tohra, the appearance of Mr Badal before Akal Takht would pave the way for the much-awaited unity among the Akali stalwarts.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, who has also been invited for the June 5 talks is unlikely to stick to the schedule due to his ill health. However, the Sikh clerics are in dilemma whether they should pronounce an ex-parte decision without consulting Mr Tohra or not.

The contents of the letter by Mr Badal have been found vague, as he has not confessed to having committed any sin amounting to the violation of the Sikh maryada or denigration of Akal Takht. Mr Badal has not written that he violated the edict issued by Jathedar, Bhai Ranjit Singh, on December 31, 1998, directing the warring Akali leaders to maintain truce till tercentenary celebrations were over.

The Sikh scholars have already advised Mr Vedanti that no decision should be pronounced without hearing out the other party. However, supporters of Mr Tohra have taken exception to the decision of Akal to invite him for “consultation”, as he has not sent any petition in this regard to the Jathedar.

Dr G.S. Cheema, press secretary to the SAD chief, when contacted, said Mr Badal would reach Amritsar tomorrow and appear before the Sikh high priests as a “humble Sikh”. Mr Badal is keen to announce rapprochement with Mr Tohra before the panchayat elections. He had already said that he has sorted out his differences with Mr Tohra and formal announcement of unity would be made shortly.

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