Akali Dal back to its Panthic agenda

Chandigarh: The developments over the past one week have proved beyond doubt that it is the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that controls the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and, thereby, has drawn political mileage from it over the years.

This time, however, the crisis in the SGPC has hit the Akali Dal like never before.

The inevitable splitting of the SGPC with Haryana Vidhan Sabha passing the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Act, 2014, last week has led to a crisis within the Akali Dal.

The party which had tried to break free of its Panthic image by including members from other religions is once again going back to its old agenda.

Though the SAD leaders maintain that any political party was free to dabble in religious affairs and could continue to protect religious bodies, the poor show by the Akali Dal in the recent Lok Sabha polls and its rising unpopularity, especially in urban areas, was now forcing the “think tank” within the party to once again re-invent the party as a protector of Sikhs.

Akalis also find themselves isolated on the issue of creation of a separate gurdwara management body in Haryana and have failed to find much support from either the Sikhs within the country, or from the community members abroad. Rather, the demand for having independent gurdwara management bodies (independent of the SGPC) in other states has been getting louder.

The decision to hold the World Sikh Conference at Manji Hall in Darbar Sahib on July 27, on the issue of Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (HSGPC), is being viewed as an attempt to polarise the Sikhs, and thus regain the lost political ground. Though the head office of the Akali Dal had always been in the holy city of Amritsar, a few years ago, it was shifted to Chandigarh. By calling the Vishal Panthic Ikath at Amritsar, where only a few functions like the election of SAD president are now held, the Akali Dal is definitely according greater significance to the July 27 meet.

Though sources say the NDA government (of which the Akali Dal is a constituent) has assured the Akali leadership of finding a solution to the crisis within a week, the party rank and file is gearing up for the July 22 meet of SGPC leaders from across the country in Chandigarh and for the World Sikh Conference at Darbar Sahib in Amritsar on July 27.

Sukhbir Singh Badal, SAD president, has called the move of the Haryana government as an assault on the Sikhs and a challenge to their religion, “which will be answered suitably”.

“We have decided to fight against the Congress government for trying to create a chasm in the Sikh community. We will go by whatever the sangat says during the World Sikh Conference on July 27,” he says.

Interestingly, this also means that in case the crisis remains unresolved till July 27, the party would have to make changes in the government too. Though Akali leaders remained tight-lipped on whether the Chief Minister would step down and lead the agitation, Badal himself told the core committee members of his party here yesterday that he would “lead the agitation from the front”.

Sources say that he could step down as he would not like to be seen as a Chief Minister “on protest”.

With Sukhbir and other young leaders having no experience of the SAD’s “morcha-style” agitations, the onus of dealing with this development has fallen on senior leaders like Badal. To ensure continuance of governance, SAD chief patron Badal has no choice but to steer the Akali-style “morchas” and by default pass on the task of running the affairs of the state to his son and deputy Sukhbir Badal.

In a dilemma

Sukhbir Badal

Sukhbir Singh BadalThe announcement of the byelections for the Patiala and Talwandi Sabo Assembly seats on August 21 has put the Akali Dal in a dilemma. On one hand, the party is looking at organising “morchas” on the HSGPC issue while on the other it now faces two elections. The party cannot afford to ignore either of these issues.

Source: The Tribune

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