Total revamp in SGPC with Gobind Singh Longowal as new president

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, November 29: The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee gets a facelift with the entire executive committee having been replaced at the annual elections of the office bearers of this statutory body at Amritsar today. The new team is headed by Gobind Singh Longowal, a former minister. More important is re-induction of Raghujit Singh Virk as the senior vice-president  who is close to Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh  Badal.

Longowal replaces Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar.

This could be the weakest ever executive committee in the history of what is known as the mini-Parliament of the Sikhs.

Virk has been on the executive committee earlier too. It was his style of working that triggered revolt among the Haryana Sikh leaders resulting in the formation of Haryana Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Virk was elected to the SGPC from Haryana. The Haryana committee is facing judicial scrutiny. The present SGPC is elected by the Sikh voters from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, the area under its jurisdiction.

Longowal started his career with Sant Harchand Singh Longowal. Gobind Singh Longowal was manager of the dera of Sant Longowal at Kaimbowal near Longowal village. He was elected to the Assembly for the first time in 1985. However, at the political level, he is not among the leaders who count in the Sikh religio-political stream.

It may be mentioned that Sukhbir had held discussions with the SGPC members in Chandigarh spanning over two days to seek their views. He was authorised by the members at a formal meeting at Amritsar yesterday to nominate the president and other office bearers. This weakest committee is  his choice.

The problem with the present general house is that it lacks talent. It is the Akali Dal that is in majority. The problem is rooted in the allotment of tickets to the people on the sole criteria of loyalty to the Badal family rather than the merit. Prof Badungar had been brought in through the co-option route. It may be mentioned that the new general house co-opts 15 members under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925.

The selection of successive presidents of this body has been coming under attack as it is said that the office bearers come out of the ‘envelope’ of Parkash Singh Badal and now Sukhbir Singh Badal. It is the Akali Dal that has always dominated this body. This ‘envelope’ system has been in existence after the death of Gurcharan Singh Tohra who headed this body for 27 years, a record.

Sukhbir has brought in this weakest body at the time when the Akali Dal needs strong support to retain its base among the Sikhs that has been getting eroded as the party distanced from the Panthic politics. It is the SGPC president who has always played this crucial role in the Sikh religio-political domain.

The general house meeting was telecast live today on Badal family owned PTC News to remove the impression about controversial election system in which the members have little say. However, the new office  team has only reinforced that perception of total control by the House of Badals.

Already, it is being talked about that the present code of conduct (Sikh Maryada) is likely to be changed under some extraneous pressures. Now there would be no resistance to such moves. It is the dera culture that might come to dominate the Sikh affairs and that would amount to going back to the period when the Sikhs launched struggle in 1920 to liberate the Golden Temple and the gurdwaras.

Jagtar Singh


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