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News Analysis
Impact of Tohra’s death on Punjab politics
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 1
Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra was the most celebrated leader of the Khalsa Panth for about four decades. He not only lent a thundering voice to Panthic politics but also gave a new meaning, direction and idiom to it. Though he was not well read, God had gifted him with the superb knack to give a new slant, twist or turn to any political debate, controversy, movement and agitation. In fact, he was the last Panthic leader of his genre.

Whether the Khalsa Panth will be able to produce a Panthic leader of his stature in this century, is difficult to say but the truth is that there is no Panthic leader of his calibre around at this moment. It will be appropriate to mention that there is a huge difference between being an Akali leader and a Panthic leader. His death has created a vacuum.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president of the SAD, was aware about such qualities of Mr Tohra. And only for this reason, he had patched up with him last year. Mr Tohra was aware that his end was near.” It will be the last kar sewa of my life,” Mr Tohra had said shortly before he felt the pain in his chest on March 25, the day the kar sewa began at the Golden Temple.

What will be the political impact of Mr Tohra’s disappearance from the political scene? This is the most significant question at the moment. What will be the fate of his political followers in the SAD as well as in the SGPC? Who will emerge as his political successor in Patiala-Fatehgarh Sahib-Ropar belt where he was the undisputed political king in his own party?

Mr Tohra had a large political following. There are several Akali leaders such as Mr Harmel Singh Tohra, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Mr Hira Singh Gabria, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Mr Kirpal Singh Libra, Mr Sukhdev Singh Libra, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, who had been with Mr Tohra. Earlier, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra was also with him. Besides, he had a solid group of about 50-60 SGPC members. He also has his men in key positions in the SAD and in the administrative set-up of the SGPC. All are feeling insecure now.

Recently, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, a former minister, was counted among Mr Tohra’s followers. In fact, he had come so close to Mr Tohra that political circles were aged with rumours that he would be political heir to the SGPC chief in Patiala-Ropar-Fatehgarh Sahib belt. Earlier, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra was projected as his political successor. Mr Tohra himself did not name his political heir. There are little chances of Tohra’s group remaining together. While some of them may keep the identity of the Tohra group intact, others are expected to join the Badal camp. In fact, there were at least three Tohra followers who had come close to Mr Badal when the SGPC chief was alive.

The immediate political fallout of Mr Tohra’s death is that once again Mr Badal’s monopoly has been established over the various Panthic and Akali organisations such as the SAD, and the SGPC. Following the patch-up with Mr Tohra, Mr Badal had given him due share in the Lok Sabha ticket and also in the Rajya Sabha elections besides electing Mr Tohra as chief of the SGPC replacing Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar. In fact, Mr Tohra was the only Akali leader, who had the guts to demand a political share from Mr Badal. There is no other leader in the SAD except for Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura.

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