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In Aug. 2021 SAD (Badal) after an emphatic third victory on the trot at DSGMC elections party president Sukhbir Singh Badal had predicted a storm at Punjab Assembly polls. Not only his party suffered a near wipe out in the State, today his own once trusted lieutenant Manjinder Singh Sirsa has closed the Gurdwara Committee doors on him in Delhi handing over complete control of the body to BJP with close to 30 out of 46 members entrusting the job to his ‘buddy’ Harmit Singh Kalka!

Congress Party once managed the affairs of Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Management Committee (DSGMC) through Jathedar Santokh Singh and later in bits and parts through Sarna brothers – Paramjit Singh and Harvinder Singh; then came the three times on-the-trot regime of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal). Now thanks to the manouvres of immediate past President Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the body has moved into the hands of BJP in a so far silent, but likely to attract action in coming days/weeks, a coup.

Incidentally, the first two victories of SAD (B) were made possible by Manjit Singh GK, son of Jathedar Santokh Singh only, before he was upstaged by Manjinder Singh Sirsa, a few months into SAD’s brace (second win) in 2017. Sirsa took over as President of DSGMC from ‘GK’ forcing his ouster from the party leveling serious charges of misappropriation.

Third straight win of SAD (B) in Aug 2021 was emphatic with the party winning 27 of the 46 seats at stake. Though Sirsa lost his Punjabi Bagh seat to Havinder Singh Sarna, he was reinstalled as president as nominee of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC). We are told the committee did it reluctantly.

Result was once closest ‘buddy’ of SAD) president, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Sirsa deserted his party and chief in December last and joined BJP. Without wasting time he started working on wresting the control of DSGMC. And he and the BJP are almost there. Many contend his ‘defecting’ to BJP was to avoid pursuance of several cases against him pertaining to ED and other Central Agencies.

Within weeks of SAD-B’s near wipe out at Punjab Assembly polls, Manjinder Singh Sirsa in a typical Bhajan Lal style of politics has managed to put the entire DSGMC in the lap of BJP with his trustworthy understudy Harmeet Singh Kalka, as the President. The party under him (read BJP) has been re-named as Akali Dal (Delhi State) boasting about close to 30 members (as supporters claim) with additional floor crossings from Akali Dal (Delhi) of Sarnas besides SAD.

Handful of SAD (B) members, with SGPC backing, may have ‘regained’ control of party office at Gurdwara Rakabganj sahib temporarily, when Sirsa-Kalka team was busy hosting the Mega Lal Qila show, by ‘breaking open the locks and starting an Akhand Paath in the building, knowledgeable insist that police action is imminent DSGMC and party offices to hand over the reigns of what Kalka’s men term as ‘legitimate’ charge of the place. While all this is happening, Sarna brothers and Jago party chief Manjit Singh GK are lying low.

The move of ascendancy in DSGMC is part of a crucial plan, much larger in perspective and magnitude with far reaching consequences, aimed at creating hegemony of Sikh Wing of BJP in the panthic institutions and Gurdwara Pratinidhi Boards of other States too besides Delhi.

Three stages of the process are:

a) Having DMs and Police chiefs in more active in ex-officio roles – this is already in vogue in most States;

b) Presence among the elected members;

c) Eyeing a definite say by wrestling Delhi-type control.

The beginning was made long back. In the initial years of SAD-BJP tie-up in Punjab, there was ‘friendly infiltration’ in many bodies. It has been intensified in the last few years after Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, the Sikh of BJP came into existence. Since the parting of ways with Badals, BJP has jumped the no holds barred play. May Bathinda incident involving the PM, deliberately blown out of proportions and debacle in Punjab polls has something to do.

Commemoration of 4th Centenary celebrations of Prakash Purab of Guru Teg Bahadur sahib with all the pomp and show by Ministry of Culture, GOI, at the lawns of Red Fort (Lal Qila) on April 20 and 21 in league with DSGMC with Manjinder Sirsa at the helms of affairs was a definite pointer in this direction. In attendance at the venue of the two-day event were the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, a host of Central Ministers, head priests of various historic gurdwaras of Delhi and the Jathedar of Takht Patna sahib, Ranjit Singh ‘Gauhar-e-Maskeen’. Little wonder that Badals and other Akali leaders from Punjab were not part of the event. Lone AAP representative was Anandpur Sahib MLA Harjot Singh Bains.

Similar functions were organised in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh – Panipat and Lucknow – last week with respective CMs being present. Senior Government representatives/Ministers were present at Gurdwara Dhubri Sahib earlier in Assam where stakes are high due to a fairly good number of Sikh pockets. Assam too has a sizable number of cash-comfortable Sikh institutions. Historic places and Sikh social organisations in these States already have government representations on their boards.

For information sake, once cash-rich DSGMC apart from controlling historic gurdwaras of Delhi, takes care of many schools, colleges and institutions of professional learning, hospitals, old age homes and other charitable organisations. Their coming under the indirect thumb of BJP is part of much bigger design of the current dispensation to manage historic gurdwaras of the country and winning the hearts of the minority community – read Sikhs – as part of the Hindutva agenda. In their scheme of things Sikhs are part of the Hindu way of life. Uttrakhand is another focus State of the Centre as part of the ruling party’s three-point plan.

Not for nothing PM in recent months have taken keen interest in virtual opening of the refurbished wing of Guru Nanak darbar at Kot Lakhpat in Gujarat’s Rann of Kutch and suo-moto announcement of ropeway at Hemkunt Sahib in Uttarakhand.

There are no two ways about Delhi being the National capital, DSGMC always required Centre’s cooperation to run its affairs. Even when Manjit Singh GK was at the helm of affairs Congress Govt before 2014 had a soft corner for him for his being the son of Jathedar Santokh Singh. The Centre under Narendra Modi was a friendly Govt for SAD being part of NDA Government.

An old hat at Congress claims that annual Congress spent on Akali Dal (Delhi) for keeping the flock together under Jathedar Santokh Singh was to the tune of Rs 6 crore in pre-1981 period. “But we can give him the credit for establishing a chain of Guru Harkrishan Public Schools and other institutions which have a name in the society,” he adds. He always had the backing of powers that be.

Then came the tenures of Sarna brothers. The affairs of DSGMC were handled with aplomb, albeit some issues which kept cropping up. Major projects taken up by Manjit Singh GK like Medical College at Gurdwara Bala Sahib ran into rough weather but he had a good first four-year run. His men give him all the credit for the second consecutive victory of SAD. But for being stabbed in the back by Manjinder Singh Sirsa, he was an able administrator, they say. According to them the wily former Rajouri Garden MLA, Sirsa as President was busy getting publicity for he was a good orator and was Media savvy.

Common refrain is: He was busy making audio visual presentations and modernisation of some services like langar (community kitchen), but completely ignored the chain of schools under GHPS and many other important institutions.

So much so that salaries of some such outfits were delayed for months. They tag him as a selfish man who was responsible for deserting his two bosses – GK and Sukhbir. They believe he has now ‘sold’ DSGMC to BJP for his own good. Gur Maryada, they claim, hit an all time low in all Gurdwaras during his time. Sirsa lobby, however, termed him as a ‘leader with a vision.’

(To be concluded)

About the author:
Prof Avinash Singh

Prof Avinash Singh CEO of Linkages, is a former Pro-Vice Chancellor of University of Technology and Management, Shillong. He was Director General with LESDEP Foundation, IMR, Ghaziabad and Mangalayan University, Aligarh. A former Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, Singh was also Professor and Head, Department of Journalism and Communication with Guru Nanak Dev University. He began his career as Sports Reporter with The Tribune and has special assignments to credit for BBC, TIME magazine, Reuters, VOA and ANI.

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