Badal’s ‘handpicked’ man forced to quit top Sikh body (Lead)

August 5th, 2008 - 8:57 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Amritsar, Aug 5 (IANS) Joginder Singh Vedanti, the head of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion, resigned from his post Tuesday after he was asked to do so. Harmandar Sahib head priest Gurbachan Singh was named the acting head (Jathedar) of the Akal Takht within hours. Vedanti submitted his resignation to Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar Monday night after two emissaries of the ruling Akali Dal controlled-SGPC told him to put in his papers or face dismissal Tuesday.

The SGPC meeting, held in Haryana’s Kurukshetra town, accepted Vedanti’s resignation and named the new acting head.

Vedanti, who had a chequered eight-year tenure as Akal Takht head, told reporters that SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur and executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta had asked for his resignation.

“I gave them my resignation letter as they sought it on behalf of the (SGPC) president. They said that they wanted it before Tuesday’s meeting,” Vedanti said.

No official reasons were given for Vedanti’s sudden resignation but SGPC sources said it was the fallout of the row between the Sikh community and the Dera Sacha Sauda sect in which Vedanti was seen toeing the hardliner and radical Sikh leaders’ line rather than that of the Akali Dal and SGPC.

Vedanti was “handpicked” by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in April 2000 to head the highest Sikh religious body. Vedanti ran into several controversies during his tenure including a pro-Khalistan speech he made in the US in April, the Dera-Sikh row, the supremacy battle with Takht Patna Sahib Jathedar Iqbal Singh and his frequent visits abroad.

Vedanti was recently also seen to be soft on the issue of Sikh support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the India-US nuclear deal. SGPC sources said he had to be stopped by top Akali Dal leaders from actually giving a statement in favour of the prime minister.

The Akali Dal in Punjab voted against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Akal Takht (meaning seat of god) is one of the five highest religious seats in Sikh religion. It is located at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, right opposite Harmandar Sahib - the holiest of Sikh shrines.

The Akal Takht ‘Jathedar’ (head) is the supreme religious authority of the seat in Sikh religion. He has the authority to issue religious edicts.

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