National

Tough to separate politics from religion in poll-bound Punjab

Rahul Gandhi conducted aseven-km ‘padyatra’ againstthe SAD-BJP government’s“misrule”.

Rahul Gandhi conducted aseven-km ‘padyatra’ againstthe SAD-BJP government’s“misrule”.  

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In Punjab, where Assembly polls are due in early 2017, recent political events have made it evident that it is difficult to separate politics from religion.

The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which has ruled the State for the last nine years, is struggling to retain its political and religious supremacy. Amid the agrarian crisis, allegations of corruption and anti-incumbency, the party’s attempts to garner the support of followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda and retain its core Sikh votes at the same time have apparently backfired.

It was the decision of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), dominated by SAD members, to grant pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was accused of blasphemy, that irked many Sikhs and set off protests across the State. It was seen as an attempt by the SAD to garner the support of Dera followers ahead of the Assembly elections. The pardon was, however, revoked to pacify the protesters.

Following this, a spate of incidents of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib surfaced and the situation has gone from bad to worse after two persons died in police firing. The crisis escalated further when, in an unprecedented step, the SGPC suspended the Panj Pyaras — the five beloved ones of the Guru — or persons learned in the Sikh scriptures, who conduct religious ceremonies and baptism, and are appointed by the SGPC. The suspension followed the decision of the Panj Pyaras to summon the heads of major Sikh shrines for pardoning Gurmeet Singh.

Their suspension was later revoked.

Meanwhile, the Congress, which is struggling to regroup in Punjab, saw the situation as an opportunity and its vice-president Rahul Gandhi wasted no time in visiting the State and conducting a 7-km ‘ padyatra’ against the SAD-BJP government “misrule”.

Mr. Gandhi even tried to send a message that factionalism in the Punjab Congress was over by making State party chief Partap Singh Bajwa and Amritsar MP and party veteran Capt. Amarinder Singh shake hands in public.

BJP’s rural consolidation

SAD ally, the BJP, has been silently, but steadily working in the rural areas of Punjab.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 8:18:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tough-to-separate-politics-from-religion-in-pollbound-punjab/article7906138.ece

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