AMRITSAR – Amid High drama, Former Akali MLA Gobind Singh Longowal was elected as the 42nd chief of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) during its annual general house meeting here on Wednesday.
Longowal — a former chairman of Sangrur district planning board — got 154 of 169 votes whereas rival candidate Amrik Singh Shahpur from Dera Baba Nanak could garner only 15 votes.
Former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur had proposed Longowal’s name for the position. Raghujit Singh Virk was elected senior vice president, Harpal Singh Jalla as junior vice president while Gurbachan Singh Karmowala was chosen the general secretary of the SGPC. The three were elected unanimously as were the eleven executive members of the SGPC.
Earlier, when SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh started proceedings, Jagir Kaur announced Longowal’s name for house’s approval. Two other members— Gurbachan Singh Karmuwal and Bhai Manjit Singh — endorsed his name, as per protocol and all SAD-affiliated members, who are in majority, gave their approval by raising their hands.
At this point, opposition members, led by Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, stood up and raised objection to unanimous declaration of the candidate’s name. They demanded voting by fielding Amrik Singh Shahpur, a SAD rebel, as their candidate. Badungar who was carrying out the proceedings of the meeting tried to persuade the opponents arguing that they are in minority and the voting would just be wastage of time.
However, opposition members remained adamant following which voting was held through secret ballots. Gurcharan Singh Grewal and Jaswant Sigh Purain were appointed polling agents of Longowal and Shahpur, respectively.
Except Mohali SGPC member Hardeep Singh, who walked out protesting the SGPC’s move of discarding original Nanakshahi Calendar and Sikh clergy’s move to pardon Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, all members cast their votes.
“Our aim was to restore democracy and oppose the envelope culture of Badal family. So, we raised objection to the unanimous declaration of the (SGPC) president,” said Bhaur justifying his move of voting.
Prior to this, the voting for the post of SGPC chief took place in 2002, when former gurdwara panel president Gurcharan Singh Tohra parted ways with SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal.
The executive committee members are: Sajjan Singh Bajjuman, Advocate Bhagwant Singh Sialka, Lakhbir Singh Arayan Wala, Bibi Gurpreet Kaur, Gurtej Singh Dhadde, Hardev Singh Rogla, Ravinder Singh Chak Mukerian, Gurmeet Singh Booh, Baba Gurmeet Singh Triloke Wale, Navtej Singh Kauni and Amrik Singh Shahpur.
Soon after Longowal’s election, the SGPC general house also passed a resolution condemning the move to rename Dyal Singh (Evening) College in Delhi as Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya.
Longowal had defeated Congress-Sanjha Morcha joint candidate Simar Partap Singh, grandson of former governor and chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala, by a margin of 37,501 votes in the 2015 Dhuri bypoll.
Longowal had courted controversy when he, along with other politicians, had approached the Sirsa dera to seek votes before the Punjab assembly elections. Along with SAD, Congress and AAP leaders, Longowal was held ‘tankhaiya’ by Akal Takht for violating its hukamnama (religious edict) directing the Sikh community to boycott the Sirsa dera.
The SGPC general house has 191 members. While 170 are elected by Sikh voters belonging to Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pardesh and Chandigarh. While incumbent six Sikh highest priests are members of the house, 15 are nominated. High priests, however, have no right to vote.