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SGPC elections: Badal urges President, PM to intervene
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh/New Delhi, May 30
While there has been no communication so far from the Ministry of Home Affairs about the postponement of the July 11 SGPC poll SAD President Parkash Singh Badal today sought intervention of the President and the Prime Minister to scuttle such a move.

The Chief Commissioner of Gurdwara Elections has already sent a copy of the election schedule for notification in the State Gazette. It is to be notified on June 1 and once it is done, the state loses any right to postpone the elections. Tomorrow will be the last and crucial day for the gurdwara elections being held after nearly eight years.

“The move to postpone the SGPC elections is causing serious alarm in the Sikh world,” said Mr Badal in a telegram to President. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, demanding their “immediate intervention to stop the move to avoid the situation from taking a serious turn.”

Mr Badal has flashed copies of this telegram to Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil and the Governor of Punjab, Justice O.P. Verma.

Mr Badal held that the postponement move was “not only a direct interference in the religious affairs of the Sikh community but was also violative of the pact between Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru and Master Tara Singh. The move was also an affront to the All-India Gurdwara Act,1925.

“The Punjab government’s intentions behind the move were clearly aimed at tampering with the electoral rolls to the disadvantage of genuine Sikh voters,” said Mr Badal in his telegram.

Meanwhile, with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh raising the issue of postponement of the SGPC elections with Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil on Friday, the Congress central leadership is weighing the pros and cons of such a move by the Congress-led coalition government at the Centre.

Sources said the Chief Minister, during his meeting with Mr Patil, gave instances of the SGPC elections having been postponed by Akali Dal governments in the past. He also told Mr Patil about the status of various cases in the court related to SGPC elections.

The sources said a section of the Punjab Congress favoured postponement of the elections. With the Congress having to fight three byelections in the next few months in Punjab, there is a feeling in the state Congress that the victory of the Parkash Singh Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal in the SGPC elections will further boost the morale of Akali workers. The Congress, they feel, had not yet recovered from the drubbing it received in the recent Lok Sabha elections.

To buttress their argument for postponing the elections, state Congress leaders are citing a reported letter of Akali leader Gurcharan Singh Tohra, in which “he sought postponement of the SGPC elections due to important religious anniversaries falling this year.” “The letter was apparently written by Tohra a few months before his death,” a senior Congress leader said.

AICC sources said the party leadership would not like its government to be seen as interfering in religious affairs of any community. They said arguments of Punjab Congress leaders had been heard and an appropriate decision would be taken.

The sources said Congress President Sonia Gandhi had not yet spoken her mind on the leadership issue in the state. With ministry formation occupying her attention in the past fortnight and the Parliament session beginning soon, a decision is likely to be taken later. They said both Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his deputy Rajinder Kaur Bhattal were given appointments by AICC leaders after a considerable "wait." No AICC leader was willing to confirm if Ms Bhattal had met Ms Gandhi.

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