Thursday, September 25, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Cong-backed group wrests control of 
Delhi Sikh body
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 24
The Badal and Tohra-led Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which has traditionally controlled Sikh religious affairs, today suffered a major setback as it failed to wrest control of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), losing to the Congress-affiliated Shiromani Akali Dal Delhi (SADD) in the annual executive elections.

Septuagenarian Prahlad Singh Chandhok, former acting president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress and associate of the late Giani Zail Singh, defeated SAD candidate Manmohan Singh Sachdeva, 27-20, in a keenly contested election today.

However, the Shiromani Akali Dal termed the results as a “moral victory’’ of the party, saying that it had not used any questionable means in the poll while the Congress governments of Delhi and Punjab had “interferred’’ in the DSGMC elections.

The defeat has also further consolidated the position of the former president of the DSGMC, Mr Paramjeet Singh Sarna, who had persistently refused to merge his faction with the SAD despite pressure from his one-time mentor, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

Mr Tohra and some other senior SAD leaders had been camping in the Capital to lend support to their candidates in the overdue executive elections of the cash-rich DSGMC, which controls several gurdwaras and education institutions in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

Both SAD president Parkash Singh Badal and SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra had put their prestige at stake as they vowed to oust outgoing DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna, whom they accused of toeing the Congress line and using his religious position for business promotion. The defeat is now being attributed to the role of sacked Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Ranjit Singh, who has five supporters in the 51-member committee. The former had issued a whip, asking his supporters to vote for Mr Sarna’s candidate.

Bhai Ranjit Singh’s opposition to the SAD came in the wake of the party turning down his pre-condition to reinstate him as Akal Takht Jathedar, a post he was removed from in 1999 by the Badal-dominated SGPC. Bhai Ranjit Singh justified his support to Mr Chandhok, saying that his move was triggered by Mr Badal and his supporters’ “open invitation to the Sangh Parivar’’ to meddle in Sikh religious affairs’’

The Congress had virtually controlled Sikh socio-religious affairs through Jathedar Santokh Singh till he was shot dead in the early 80s. After his killing, the DSGMC held no elections for more than 15 years during which the Congress lost its Sikh support base because of Operation Bluestar and the 1984 riots. With the BJP coming to power in Delhi, the general election to the DSGMC was held in 1995, which the Akalis swept, ousting Congress loyalists from the committee.

However, in last year’s general election, the SAD was ousted, thanks to a fierce anti-Badal campaign led by Mr Sarna, who was supported by Mr Tohra, then at war with Mr Badal. But Mr Sarna refused to merge his faction with the SAD despite his mentor Tohra making up with Mr Badal three months ago, saying it would dilute the separate identity of his group.

Today’s DSGMC results have come as a shot in the arm for the Congress, which is rebuilding its Sikh support base ahead of the Assembly and general election. The DSGMC commands a considerable influence over Delhi’s large Sikh population. There was heavy police presence in Gurdwara Rakab Ganj’s compound, where the DSGMC office is located. The DSGMC general elections are held every four years and the committee chooses a new executive every year.


News Analysis
Sarna advises Badal to retire
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 24
Having defeated the Badal-Tohra combine in the annual elections to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) today, the President of the Delhi Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, suggested to the President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to retire from active politics.

Mr Sarna, whose candidates won the DSGMC elections, said Mr Badal should realise after his party’s defeat in the DSGMC that he had lost control over Sikh politics and it was time for him to say goodbye to politics to make way for younger Akali politicians. However, he declined to make any comment about SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Mr Tohra, who is very close to Mr Sarna, had been pressuring the latter to merge his party with the SAD (Badal). However, Mr Sarna, the outgoing President of the DSGMC, refused to do so.

Mr Sarna has not only turned tables on Mr Badal and Mr Tohra but also proved that Delhi’s Sikh politics goes by its own logic and Punjab’s Akali leadership has nothing much to do there. In fact, the setback to Mr Badal in the DSGMC would also affect the BJP in the coming Delhi Assembly elections as the DSGMC plays an important role in Sikh politics there.

The BJP leadership had provided all logistic support to Mr Badal and Mr Tohra for winning the DSGMC elections. The defeat will also be a major setback for BJP leader, Madan Lal Khurana, who is also called, “Jathedar Khurana”. Mr Khurana is being projected as the chief ministerial candidate in Delhi. Mr Khurana had been expecting whole-hearted support from Delhi Sikhs, which was not possible now because Mr Sarna would certainly oppose the candidates supported by the Badal party in the Delhi Assembly elections. Mr Badal would have to support the BJP in the Delhi Assembly elections owing to the alliance.

Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, who along with union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and former minister Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal had been camping in Delhi to garner support for the SAD candidates said Mr Sarna’s group had won with the Congress support.

He alleged that Mr Prahlad Singh Chandok, the new DSGMC President, was a staunch Congress supporter. On the other hand, Mr Sarna said that Mr Badal’s candidate, Mr Manmohan Singh Sachdeva, had been a Congress supporter for the past several decades.

Mr Calcutta said Mr Sarna had given the DSGMC presidentship to the Congress on a platter. He claimed there was a difference of just two votes between the winner and the loser . Mr Sarna, however, said the candidates of his group got 30 votes while the rivals got only 20 votes.

Bhai Ranjit Singh played a crucial role in the victory of the Sarna group, who gave the important post of General Secretary of the DSGMC to Mr Habhajan Singh Matharoo, a candidate of Bhai Ranjit Singh. 

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