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Sukhbir Badal puts at stake the prestige of SGPC and Sikh community to secure his business of PTC TV channel

SATINDER BAINS | June 27, 2023 12:41 PM

SGPC president reduced his status to a spokesman of Badal family, accuses Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann
CHANDIGARH: Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal has put the prestige of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee(SGPC), the Akal Takht and the Sikh community at stake to secure his business interests in PTC TV channel which holds exclusive rights of Gurbani telecast from Sri Harmandir Sahib.

PTC Channel is owned by Sukhbir Badal and for the last 11 years this TV channel is telecasting Gurbani thus not allowing any other TV channel or digital paltform to telecast the live stream. Not only PTC channel, the SGPC is also controlled by Badal family for decades due to its political clout it earned by stiching an alliance with BJP in Punjab.

Now when Punjab Vidhan Sabha has passed a bill to make Gurbani telecast free to air, Sukhbir Badal has turned all tables on Punjab Government led by Bhagwant Singh Mann. Sukhbir Badal has made SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami his front man to attack Bhagwant Mann and using all cheap tacticts to defame the AAP government. The issue of tying beard raised by Bhagwant Mann in the Vidhan Sabha to describe opportunistic stance of SAD president Sukhbir Badal was being diverted as an attack on diginity of Sikhs.

SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami is leaving no stone unturned to prove his loyality with the Badal family. He is doing all out efforts to shft the focus from PTC news channel to Bhagwant Mann and party supremo Arcind Kehriwal, The Chief Minister has his tack on Dhami for participating in the political activities to support SAD candidate, first in the Jalandhar Lok Sabha bye-election and now in defending the PTC channel owned by Badals. CM has described Dhami as Chief spokesman of SAD.

Sukhbir Badal though keeping himself behind the scene but through SGPC and SAD leaders he is trying his best to project the issue of Gurbani telecast on PTC as an attack on the SGPC and the Sikh community. It is understood he may also use the Akal Takht Jathedar to scale up the attack on present Government. The SAD and SGPC are also intending to give a communal colour to the Gurbani issue by projecting Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister, a Hindu main force behind passing of Gurdwara Amendment Bill, 2023. SGPC president has allegeed that Kejriwal who has anti-Sikh mindset is using Bhagwant Mann to control the SGPC.

This is in fact an attempt by SAD(Badal) to revive its base among Sikhs by provoking Sikhs against the ruling party but unfortunately Sikhs in general are not responding to call of SGPC and SAD knowing well that business interests of Badals are involved in the whole controversy.

The Act passed by Vidhan Sabha has not altered any clause of Sikh Gurdwara Act of 1925 to interfere in the working of the SGPC but it has added a clause 125A in the act to facilitate the Gurbani telecast free of cost and end the monopoly of a TV chnnel owned by Badal family. The Government has taken the stand that when Gurdwara Act came into exiatance in 1925, there was no provision of transmission of Gurbani through any electronic media. This was the major lacuna in the Act which was expoited by Badal family to obtain Gurbani rights. The first contract was signed with ETC Punjabi channel in 2001 but later it was transferred to PTC news channel when Badals came to power.

The SGPC on June 26, 2023 held a special general house meeting in Amritsar to counter the AAP government on the issue of amendment in the Gurdwara Act. The General house rejected the Government bill citing it anti-Sikh and urged the Governor not to sign it. SGPC even threatened to launch a morcha against the bill. SGPC president has hinted that Akal Takht Jathedar may also issue an edict for Sikh community to safeguard the institution of SGPC. The critics question the logic behind holding special session of SGPC. The SGPC in the past failed to protect its prestige when Badal family managed 'pardon' by Akal Takht for the dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmit Ram Rahim.

Intrestingly, the SGPC special session has not discussed any proposal to start its own channel and ways and means to allow free to air telecast of Gurbani. The SGPC's contract with PTC is expiring on July 23. SGPC had earlier planned to re-tender telecast of Gurbani. In the absence of bill passed by the government, It was obvious that PTC would have won the contract for the next 10 years for a reason that all Badal men are holding top positions in SGPC. Former Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh had ordered SGPC last year to start its own TV channel but SGPC failed to pay any heed to Jathedar's order. He was recently removed when he was on foreign tour.

There seems a fear in the mind of Sukhbir Badal that if he looses control of Gurbani telecast, his TV channel might lose the popularity it enjoys due to Gurbani. It is understood that large audience of Sikhs watch PTC channel due to Gurbani and it raises TRP of the channel. PTC channel is main source of political propaganda in favour of Badal family. Now BJP not on side of SAD, it is expected Punjab Governor would give his approval to the bill.

Punjab Government has brought the legislation to prevent Badal family from grabbing the contract once again and make it a level playing field for all news channels. This is the main reason Sukhbir Badal is upset over the developments and trying to involve SGPC and Akal Takht to protect his business interess. PTC news channel is considered lifeline of SAD and Badal family for their political survival. SAD had faced humiliating defeat in the last assembly elections in which Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal besides his all relatives and confidents lost the elections. The allegations of Badal family involvement in cases of sacrilege of Guru Granth Singh had proved costly to the party. The Gurbani controversy would be last nail in the coffin of SAD(Badal), the political observers believe so.

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