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G S Tohra back as SGPC chief
July 27, 2003 17:32 IST
After being forced to give up his stranglehold over the influential Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee four years ago, veteran Akali leader Gurcharan Singh Tohra on Sunday returned to the coveted post following his unanimous election as president for the third time.
The decision to elect Tohra as president of the SGPC, which is responsible for management of Sikh shrines in the country, was taken at an executive committee meeting in the SGPC complex in Amritsar.
Of the 15 members in the SGPC committee, two were absent.
Amidst slogans of Bole So Nihal, Sat Sree Akal, Tohra's name was proposed by acting SGPC president Alwinderpal Singh Pakhoke and seconded by executive member Gurbax Singh.
After assuming charge, Tohra, who has had the longest tenure of 25 years as SGPC chief, thanked his close confidant Sukhdev Singh Bhaur for resigning from the executive committee to pave the way for his election.
Tohra, who suffered a cardiac attack in Patiala recently, said he was not keeping good health and sought cooperation from all.
He commended the services of predecessors - Bibi Jagir Kaur and outgoing SGPC chief Kripal Singh Badungar.
He said if required changes would be effected at the organisational level.
Tohra was removed as SGPC chief in March 1999, a few days before the commencement of the Khalsa Tercentenary celebrations at Anandpur Sahib, following differences with then Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The main issue was decentralisation of powers within the Shiromani Akali Dal, headed by Badal, and the one-man-one-post norm, which Tohra advocated.
In December 1998, Bhai Ranjit Singh, then jathedar (head priest) of the Akal Takht issued an edict directing the top Akali leadership to abstain from criticising each other saying that status quo be maintained till the tercentenary celebrations were over.
The edict followed a no-confidence motion moved by some SGPC members against Tohra in December 1998. He was ultimately removed from the post on March 16, 1999.
After his subsequent expulsion from the SAD, five members in the Badal cabinet, including Manjit Singh Calcutta, Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Harmail Singh Tohra, Inderjit Singh Zira and Surjit Singh Kohli, resigned in protest.
Following this, the Badal faction removed Bhai Ranjit Singh from the Akal Takht in February 1999 and installed Giani Puran Singh.
The possibility of a rapprochement emerged after the February 2001 assembly elections in Punjab, in which the SAD lost power and the Tohra faction failed to win even a single seat.
Since then, Badal has been at the receiving end of a campaign by the Congress government to expose his alleged ill-gotten wealth.
On June 13, Badal and Tohra finally buried the hatchet after the latter welcomed the former's appearance before the Akal Takht and expressed satisfaction over the mild religious punishment ordered by the Sikh clergy to the former chief minister.
On July 16, Badal announced that Tohra would be the new SGPC president.
As part of the unity formula worked out between the Akali factions headed by Badal and Tohra, outgoing SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar, whose term was to end in November, offered to resign to clear the way for Tohra.
The SGPC is the largest representative body of the Sikhs and is regarded as mini-parliament of the community.
Since 1963, the SGPC has been headed by Sant Chanan Singh (1963-73), G S Tohra (1973-86), Baldev Singh Sibia (1986-87), Kabul Singh (1987), G S Tohra (1987 to March 19, 1999), Bibi Jagir Kaur (March 1999-November 30, 2000), Jagdev Singh Talwandi (November 30, 2000 to November 27, 2001) and Kirpal Singh Badungar (November 27, 2001-July 20, 2003).
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