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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2345

NDA Appeasement Of The Akalis Is Wrong

By Tushar Pandit - Syndicate Features

The Hooda government has set up a separate Haryana Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee for the state in an obvious bid to shore up the Congress party’s electoral fortunes and to create a wedge between the Akali led government in Punjab and the BJP-led government at the centre. New Delhi has put pressure on the Haryana government to revoke the bill that has placed the Sikh shrines and Gurudwaras in Haryana outside the ambit of the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. The Haryana governor Jagannath Pahadia gave his assent to the bill just days before he demitted office frustrating the BJP-Akali Dal plans to force a roll back.

Tension is in the air both in Haryana and its neighbouring Punjab, thanks to the SGPC moves which are backed by the Punjab and central governments. The authorities say that they are keeping an eye on the situation but it should not be surprising if there are some disturbances over the next few days.

The Haryana government has accused the Punjab government of attempting to ‘disturb’ the law and order situation in Haryana. It has also alleged that the Akali leadership in Punjab is ‘desperate’ to take control of the Sikh shrines and Gurudwaras in Haryana.

The union home minister has written to the Haryana government to withdraw the Gurdwara bill. The response was predictable – “the demand is as an unjust interference in the affairs of the state”.

The union government is not going to listen to the Haryana side of the story because it has been pampering the Akalis who bring the Sikh votes into the BJP- fold. In its eagerness to please the Akalis, the Modi government has concurred with the SGPC and the Punjab government that the Haryana government had no right to do what it did.

It cannot be disputed that there will be opposition to a separate Haryana Gurdwara Management Committee in Punjab and elsewhere. But if the Modi government has not closed its eyes it will find that there is a separate Gurudwara managing committee right in Delhi. If it cares to listen to other voices it will discover that the demand for a separate Gurdwara committee has also been raised in the union territory of Chandigarh.

The deep fissures within the Akalis and the SGPC, as terrifyingly exhibited in a sword battle between two factions a few weeks ago in Amritsar, may be a factor behind the demands for more Gurdwara committees.

According to the Haryana government, what the centre is doing amounts to an ‘affront’ to parliamentary democracy and the federal structure of the constitution. Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act of 1966, which led to a four-way split of Punjab (Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and UT of Chandigarh), gave it the power to enact a bill for a separate Gurdwara managing committee for the state, it says.

The Punjab government is expanding its energies on a matter that should not be its concern while ignoring the more pressing problems facing the people of the state. For instance, agriculture production in the state, known as the grain basket of the country, has been falling and so is the industrial production. Drug addiction is reaching near epidemic proportions. The financial crisis in the state has been deepening.

For years, the state has not been able to utilise central funds for central schemes because it was unable to find money for matching the central grant. There was nothing about new development projects in the state budget for 2014-15. But the budget did provide Rs 100 crore for building ‘memorials’ in the state. The chief minister and his family have been “under cloud” over several scams. A prominent daily from Chandigarh earned their wrath for ‘daring’ to probe these controversies.

Punjab has indeed a proud record of people whose life and sacrifices merit memorials. But the BJP-Akali Dal government is more keen to honour some controversial persons; people who were allegedly involved in the assassination of state and national leaders. The list that the Akali Dal government has in mind should be embarrassing for the BJP because it doesn’t see the persons who figure in the list as ‘martyrs’, but it can do little but go along with the state government because without the Akali support it may not do well at the polls.

Some will find it surprising that the central government is working under pressure from the Akalis. Only a few weeks ago, the BJP in Punjab was openly talking furiously against the state Akali leadership for its bad performance. That was a major factor that led to the electoral ignominy for the BJP in Punjab during the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP was shocked at the defeat of the union finance and defence minister, Arun Jaitley, in Amritsar.

Interestingly, the Akali protest against the Haryana Gurdwara committee has so far not led to any poplar stir in Punjab. It could be taken as a sign of public apathy; but it could also be seen as an expression of the general disappointment with the SAD-BJP rule. By being complicit in the Badal game for electoral gains, New Delhi will only be adding fuel to fire, should, god forbid, matters begin to go out of hand in Punjab, a crucial border state.

- Asian Tribune -

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