With the cessation of ties between oldest allies – Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), as the former pulls out of NDA, there is a high chance that the party which claims to exist for the benefit and welfare of the ‘Sikh Panth’ might just be wiped out of its decades-long reign over the apex body of Sikh Gurdwaras – the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). While the SGPC is tasked with the maintenance, upkeep and running of Gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, including Sri Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, the cash-rich body’s influence is definitely not limited to these states alone, as it enjoys a pan-India influence on matters relating to the Sikh Panth.
The firm hold of the Akalis, and in recent years of the Badals in panthic matters has been made possible only due to their almost continuous reign over the SGPC. As a matter of fact, the Akali Dal played a pivotal role in the movement which led to the formation and formalization of the SGPC according to the Gurdwaras Act of 1925. In the recent past, however, the Akali Dal and Badals have become synonymous to each other, with not even a minute shade of the original Akali Dal in sight.
As per a report by TOI, the Ministry of Home Affairs, led by Amit Shah, has started deliberations on the feasibility of conducting the much-delayed SGPC polls in the given ground situation, where the Badals are faced by an unprecedented anti-incumbency against them, and also a general perception among Sikhs that the SAD has had its time in the religious mini-parliament, and that they must be booted out now, if the sanctity of Sikh institutions, currently being grossly misused by the Akali Dal, is to preserved.
As per a senior officer in the Punjab government quoted by TOI, before taking a final call, the Union Home Ministry wants to test the waters regarding feasibility of conducting elections and their possible outcome. It is also learnt that the Union ministry is interested to know the stand of various splinter groups of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) like the SAD (Democratic) headed by Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and SAD (Taksali) headed by former Lok Sabha MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura. It also wants to gauge the influence of SAD (Amritsar) headed by former MP Simranjit Singh Mann and SAD 1920 headed by Ravinder Singh in the SGPC polls.
It must be remembered that this “testing the waters” narrative was reported days before the SAD pompously walked out of the NDA, after breaking its ties with the BJP. Now, the BJP government is not bound by any obligation to conduct the SGPC polls at an opportune time of the Akali Dal’s choosing. Instead, the Union government will look to initiate election process to the SGPC as soon as possible. Rest assured, if the polls to the Sikh mini-parliament are held any time soon, the prospect of Badals receiving a political beating from the Sikh panth is but expected.
The polls to the 170-member strong SGPC were last held in 2011, when the SAD-Sant Samaj combine had garnered a total of 157 seats. The tenure for each SGPC committee is five years, and the delay in elections has been caused by the Badal-led Akali Dal, which fears getting routed from polls if they were to be conducted in the highly politically charged atmosphere against them. The government of India will most definitely cease this opportunity, and facilitate the conduct of the SGPC polls immediately, so that the Badals realise that their failed political stuntsmanship of misleading farmers and walking out of the NDA is bound have unimaginable consequences for them.
However, the polls to the SGPC must not be conducted with the intention of getting back at the Badals. They must be held immediately because of the simple fact that they are long overdue, and the anger among Sikhs must be given an immediate outlet in the form of the SGPC polls, so that the Badal-monopolised Akali Dal is taught a lesson.
Rampant corruption, mismanagement of Gurdwaras, a monopoly over the Akal Takht and other premier Sikh institutions of authority and a general sense of ownership over the Sikh panth are all factors bound to work tremendously to the Badal-led Akali Dal’s disadvantage in the SGPC polls. Only recently, the unaccounted disappearance of 328 saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which the SGPC was tasked to protect and keep an account of, has snowballed into a massive controversy within the panth, which is holding the SGPC, and as a consequence its rulers – the SAD, accountable for the corruption-related-negligence.
While monetary corruption of the Akali Dal-controlled SGPC has been a massive issue by itself among Sikhs, if it is now turning out that the committee has also failed to protect saroops of the Guru Granth Sahib owing to the same corrupt practices, rest assured, Sikhs will make it a point to teach the SGPC and its masters a lesson in the upcoming polls which they shall remember for a lifetime.
Additionally, the pardoning of Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Ram Rahim by the Akal Takht, and the SGPC’s failure at keeping issues relating to sacrilege in check are bound to hurt the poll prospects of the Akali Dal in the polls which the Union government might announce anytime now.
A control of the SGPC effectively means having a control over the Sikh Panth. This control, the Akali Dal, due to its misadventure in New Delhi, is all set to lose. If voted out of the SGPC, there is no saving the political fortunes of the Badals, as they will then head towards a downward spiral, one from where there would be no saving the dynasty. The Union government must make it a point to conduct the SGPC elections as soon as possible, if the sanctity of Sikh institutions is to be preserved.