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S.G.P.C. Elections Marred by Violence, Alcohol, and Hypocrisy
By MUNISH BYALA
N.D.T.V. reported (Jul. 11), "Only an estimated 35 per cent of the electorate voted." The report added, "the S.G.P.C. polls were marred by a clash between the favourites - Badal's Akali Dal and the hardliner group the Panthic Morcha." The Times of India reported (Jul. 13), S.A.D. "won 134 seats in the 170-member S.G.P.C. house, improving its tally by about 30 seats over the outgoing house." It added, "Panthic Morcha, which contested all the 170 seats, could manage only 22 seats. Independents won five seats. S.A.D. wrested all the seats in eight districts whereas in Haryana it bagged four of the 11 seats." The Times of India reported (Jul. 12), that "an estimated 40% of 5.5 million voters" exercised their franchise.
The Tribune reported (Jul. 11), "While the previous instructions of the [G.E.C.] had directed that only 'keshadharis' could cast their votes, later instructions stated that all voters who were enrolled in the voter lists should be allowed to cast votes." The report added, "Since the enactment of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, this is for [sic] the first time that anybody has lost life due to consumption of liquor on an S.G.P.C. polling day."
Sikh News Network, Amritsar (Punjab, India), Jul. 13, 2004
Photo: S.G.P.C. election violence is typified by the removing of opponents' turbans (note the removed green turban at bottom-right).
At least 20 people were injured - two of them seriously - in the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (S.G.P.C.) election related violence in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts yesterday.
With the initial results coming in, the Shiromani Akali Dal (S.A.D.) was headed for a landslide victory, as its candidates had either won or attained unassailable margins at most places in Punjab for the general house of the S.G.P.C.
According to the S.A.D. secretary, Dr. Daljit Singh [Cheema], who claimed to have received results from most places, the party had coasted major victories. He also claimed that S.A.D.'s final tally would reach 150. He also indicated that the party chief, Parkash Singh [Badal], would address reporters in Chandigarh on Monday regarding S.A.D.'s performance. But the results for the elections would be formally announced on Jul. 15.
The counting of ballots began immediately after polling was completed this evening. But the office of the Gurdwara Election Commission (G.E.C.) was not prepared to provide information about the polling percentages or results for this report.
Nearly 56 lakh voters were eligible to exercise their franchise, for which 8,307 polling stations had been set up. This included 7,718 in Punjab, 449 in Haryana, 113 in Himachal Pradesh and 27 in Chandigarh. All over the region, 36,515 polling staff had been deputed to conduct the elections, while nearly 70,000 police personnel were on security duties.
The general house has 170 elected members, 15 are co-opted, while the designated five Singh Sahibs (apex clerics) are ex-officio members. Of the elected members 157 come from Punjab, 11 from Haryana and one each from Himachal Pradesh [Shimla] and Chandigarh.
Eight contests have already been decided unopposed, with six going to the S.A.D. and two to the rival Panthic Morcha, which is a conglomerate of splinter Akali factions and Sikh organizations. Supporters from the two parties engaged in fisticuffs with allegations of election misconduct flying both sides. The G.E.C. had set aside the elections for three seats, following a controversy over clearance of dues by candidates of S.A.D.