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Punjab Politics: Will small Sikh groups become a challenge for SAD(B)?

Chandigarh: The emerging smaller Sikh religiopolitical groups in Punjab are likely to pose a major challenge to the Shiromani Akali Dal – Badal  SAD(B), which is striving hard to make a come back in state polity even as both the SAD(B) as well as Congress parties were politically routed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the last assembly elections. The groups including Sikh Sadbhawna Dal (SSD), Panthic Akali Lehar  (PAL), Panthic Talmel Sangathan (PTS), Sehajdhari Sikh Party (SSP) etc. whose leaders at some point time were close to SAD(B) leadership but chose to part ways blaming SAD(B) for having failed to judiciously deliver its duties towards Panth and instead used Panthic institutions including Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) as well as the supreme temporal seat of Sikhs Akal Takht for their own personal and political interests.

Not only the SAD(B) has taken up the issue of Sikh prisoners but other groups have also thrown their weight behind Sikh prisoners and had been advocating their release from different platforms.

Bhai Baldev Singh Wadala of SSD has been leading an agitation to trace the whereabouts of 328 Saroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib which the SGPC claims to have gone ‘missing’ besides Wadala who enjoys considerable support from Sikh masses especially in rural areas has been demanding the release of Sikh prisoners.

Former Jathedar of Takht Damdama  Sahib Giani Kewal Singh who leads the PTS claims to have the support of as many as 150 different Sikh bodies spread across the state. And in the recent past, the PTS had also announced to contest SGPC elections.

Former Jathedar of Akal Takht and president of PAL Bhai Ranjit Singh had been openly demanding the ouster of Badal from the SGPC even as the present house of SGPC has the majority of members having allegiance with SAD(B).

Questions are being asked about how these ‘insignificant’ looking religiopolitical parties will pose any challenge to the ‘mighty’ Akali who not only have the ‘immense’ political experience but also have the cadre and resources to project themselves as a major ‘Panthic’ force.

Political pundits are of the view that the chances are that these emerging religiopolitical groups could shake hands ahead of SGPC elections to give a united fight to the SAD(B) but at the same time, SAD(B) leadership terms them ‘opportunists’ for whom personal resurgence was more important than Panthic issues.