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New S.G.P.C. President: The Choice Falls on a Dark Horse

Courtesy: Jagpal Singh Tiwana.

The Tribune, Nov. 24, 2005

Photo: Avtar Singh Makkar

The election of Mr. Avtar Singh Makkar as president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee [S.G.P.C.] has come as a surprise. He was not among the front-runners for the post. The Political Affairs Committee of the Shiromani Alkali Dal had authorised Mr. Parkash Singh Badal to choose the party nominee for the top post in the S.G.P.C. elections. Mr. Badal chose Mr. Makkar, bypassing such hot contenders as Mr. Kirpal Singh Badungar, Mr. Jagdev Singh Talwandi, both former presidents of the S.G.P.C., former Punjab minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Ms. Kiranjot Kaur, granddaughter of Master Tara Singh, and, of course, Bibi Jagir Kaur.

The outgoing S.G.P.C. chief, Bibi Jagir Kaur, has been in controversy for one reason or the other. Senior leaders of the party were not happy with her style of functioning. There were also allegations of misuse of her position and S.G.P.C. funds against her. The Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission had also indicted her. Mr. Badal is known to defend his loyalists, but this time the pressure was, perhaps, too much to handle. Like Bibi Jagir Kaur, Mr. Avtar Singh Makkar is also a committed supporter of Mr. Badal. Although in active politics for about 25 years, Mr. Makkar lost the last assembly election from Ludhiana West and is a first-time member of the S.G.P.C.

What has led Mr. Badal opt for a dark horse? It is not for the first time that Mr. Badal has sprung a surprise. The choice of both Mr. Badungar and Bibi Jagir Kaur was also not on the expected lines. After Mr. Gurcharan Singh Tohra's departure from the political scene, Mr. Badal has made it known that he can get anyone elected to the S.G.P.C. post. But there is a definite political purpose behind Mr. Makkar's selection. And it is to counter the growing influence of the business interests represented by Delhi Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Paramjit Singh Sarna, who is known to be a friend of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Mr. Badal is known to use his clout in the S.G.P.C. and has proved that he can still call the shots in its politics.