Op/Ed – SGPC annual elections: A drama with three episodes

SAD (Badal) president Sukhbir Badal playing drama of being authorized to nominate new SGPC team at Teja Singh Samundri Hall on the eve of annual SGPC poll session

General house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), perceived as ‘Sikh parliament’, is assembling on November 27 at Teja Singh Samundri Hall, headquarters of the apex gurdwara body, to elect its president, senior vice president, junior vice president, general secretary and 11 members of its executive as per rules.

However, this exercise has been left nothing but a drama played by the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) president Sukhbir Badal, in which he is seen using the SGPC as his rubber stamp to get his personal choice approved. This drama has been witnessed for the last around two decades and was started by his father and the SAD (B) patriarch Parkash Badal, five times chief minister of Punjab.

Ever since Sukhbir took over full reigns of the party which claims itself as sole representative party of the Sikh nation, thereby controlling over the SGPC, the drama does not end in one go, but it has three episodes.

First, he calls a meeting of the SGPC members dividing them into several groups in the name of collecting their suggestions, advice and choices. He took around a week to complete this exercise. This time, he conducted such meetings at the party head office at Chandigarh and Sri Guru Ram Das Medical College, Amritsar.

This is the first episode of the drama as these meetings do not affect the choice of Sukhbir.  By doing so, he tries to show that he is considering the take of every SGPC member before choosing the president and rest of the team.

Second episode of this drama takes place at Taja Singh Samundri Hall on the eve of the election session. Senior party leaders Daljit Cheema and Balwinder Bhundar who are known as most loyalist persons of the Badal family, remain with him on the occasion. First, he gets the meeting addressed by some prominent faces among the SGPC members and then he addresses himself. Through one of his loyalists, he gets the announcement made that he is authorized to choose the team. The SGPC members, who are used to following this practice for the last several years, give their approval by raising their hands and raising the slogans of “Sat Sri Akal” without raising any objection.

This is merely a drama because this meeting is not called by the SGPC officially or unofficially. Secondly, the SAD (B) president already has such authorization. He does not need to get it again and again. Actually, he, like his father has centralized all the organizational powers in the party to him and the majority of the SGPC owe allegiance to it. Thus, he enjoys absolute power in the party.  He calls this meeting just to do a formality that SGPC members themselves authorize him to select persons for the top posts of the SGPC. This authorization is not valid legally.

After such a meeting on November 26, Cheema tries to justify this process as, “This is a tradition of the party that views of every member are taken democratically by the party president for election of the office-bearers. In the meeting, their collective views have been taken following which they authorized Sukhbir Ji to choose the new team”.

He tried to make this undemocratic practice democratic. In reality, the SGPC never had such tradition ever before Badal controlled the gurdwara body with demise of influential SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra. The Sikh Gurdwara Act-1925 empowers the SGPC general house to elect the office-bearers and executive during the annual election session, which is a legal and democratic process. Don’t the SGPC members able to elect the office-bearers on their own?  Are the persons who were elected by the Sikhs, mentally disabled?

The drama is drawn to its third and final episode. This is the election session of the general house, during which the members do nothing but to stamp the Sukhbir’s choice that comes in a sealed envelope. The SAD (B) sends this envelope containing names of the new team members of his choice through his messenger Cheema who remains present in the session for surveillance.

In this episode, main actors are the SGPC members whose responsibility is to elect their representatives according to their collective choice democratically, for which the session is called and the SGPC resources are spent on it, but they play drama of doing so. In reality, they don’t do so. What they do in reality, is to stamp what is sent by Sukhbir in his envelope, closing their eyes. They don’t dare to see whether the person being chosen deserves the respective post. By not doing so, they mock the innocent Sikh people who voted for them. This exercise is termed “Lifafa Culture” in the community.

In other words, the SGPC office-bearers and executive members are nominated by Sukhbir on the basis of his political calculations. Rest of the exercise is purely a drama, the final episode of which is being played on November 27 this year.

And know the ridiculous justification of this culture, the messenger of Sukhbir cited today (November 26). When asked, he says, “Actually, the SGPC has more than 150 members. So many members cannot make the decision on their own. So, the SAD president takes their views one by one and nominates the persons accordingly. This is a fully democratic process. Have you ever seen any members objecting to the person named by the party president?”.

Rich in resources, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) manages major historic gurdwaras in three states—Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pardesh and union territory of Chandigarh. Besides, it runs several educational, medical, religious and human welfare institutions.  


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