Amritsar, May 31
The general elections of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) would be a litmus test for the Sukhbir Singh Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that has long held sway over the committee’s affairs.
Last elections were held in Sept 2011
- Though the SGPC general elections are supposed to be held every five years, these have not been held since 2011
- In September 2011, the SAD and Sant Samaj had together secured 157 seats of the 170 seats
Chief Election Commissioner of the Gurdwara Elections Justice SS Saron (retd) has directed the administrative authorities concerned to initiate preparations for holding fresh SGPC polls.
Political experts believe that SAD has been decimated in the state and the Centre alike; and fissures in the party further dent its armour on the Panthic platform too.
SAD had survived a scare in the 2022 annual elections of the Sikh body’s office-bearers by managing to have its candidate Harjinder Singh Dhami re-elected to president’s post. However, the fight put up by its ousted leader Jagir Kaur and the division of votes remain a matter of great concern for the party.
Ever since the party lost power in Punjab in the 2017 Assembly polls after its decade-long rule, murmurs of dissent against the party leadership have been growing. The party had won just three of the 117 seats in the 2022 Assembly elections, which was followed by a dismal performance in the Sangrur and Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypolls.
Ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, SAD saw the departure of several senior ‘taksali’ Akalis such as former ministers Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and Sewa Singh Sekhwan (both of whom have since passed away), former MP Rattan Singh Ajnala and his son former MLA Amarpal Singh Boney Ajnala from the party. Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and his former MLA son Parminder Singh Dhindsa later also parted ways with the party.
Besides, three-time former SGPC president Jagir Kaur and former SGPC general secretary Karnail Singh Panjouli were shown the door as they were opposed to political influence on the SGPC. They had also railed against the party’s practice of “lifafa culture” in picking the SGPC president.
Though Jagir Kaur had failed to defeat Dhami for the top SGPC post, she was successful in denting the SAD’s armour by bagging twice the number of votes usually garnered by opposition candidates in past elections. Dhami had ultimately won by getting 104 votes. Bibi, on the other hand ended up with 42 votes. This was remarkable because no other opposition candidate had managed to bag more than 20 votes in the past. This was an indication that the number of members against SAD mandate has significantly grown.
Though the SGPC members’ polls are supposed to be held every five years, there has been no election since 2011. In September 2011, the SAD and Sant Samaj had together secured 157 seats of the 170 seats.
In December 2011, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had nullified the polls by restoring the voting rights of Sehajdhari Sikhs while quashing a 2003 notification by the Centre. The ruling was challenged by the SGPC in the Supreme Court.
In September 2016, the apex court reinstated the SGPC house elected in 2011 and barred the Sehajdhari Sikhs’ right to vote as it had become irrelevant following an amendment to the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925.
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