PM cancels Punjab trip, SGPC and Akalis upset

November 3rd, 2011 - 5:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Chandigarh, Nov 3 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s much awaited visit to Punjab to inaugurate the ambitious Khalsa Heritage Complex (KHC) at Anandpur Sahib has been cancelled, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) said Thursday.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had said the KHC, touted as a landmark monument of Sikhism, would be inaugurated by the prime minister between Nov 15 and 25.

Manmohan Singh, a Sikh himself, had agreed “in principle” to a request by the chief minister to inaugurate the KHC at Anandpur Sahib, 80 km from here, when the latter called on him in New Delhi in October.

The SGPC, considered the mini parliament of Sikh religion, and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal have blamed petty politics of Punjab Congress leaders for the cancellation.

“The visit of the prime minister has been cancelled. The Sikh community had bestowed an honour on the prime minister, who is himself a Sikh, to inaugurate this great monument. But his visit has been sacrificed by petty politics,” SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said in Patiala Thursday.

“The prime minister should not be so weak that he is influenced by others so easily,” said Makkar, sounding bitter.

Punjab Congress president and former chief minister Amarinder Singh had last month written a letter to the prime minister to not come for the KHC project inauguration as it had already been ‘inaugurated’ in 2006.

Punjab Congress leaders were worried that the prime minister coming for an event for the Badal government and the SGPC so close to assembly elections could be detrimental to Congress interests.

Assembly elections in the state are likely to be held February-March next year and parties in the state are already in election mode.

“It is unfortunate that he (PM) has said that I am not coming. It was an honour for him, being a Sikh, to inaugurate this prestigious project. The Punjab Congress and Amarinder Singh are responsible for this cancellation (of the visit),” Chief Minister Badal said.

The Rs.275 crore project, announced in April 1999, was originally expected to be completed by September 2004 to coincide with the celebrations of the 400th year of the Golden Temple, but the completion deadline was pushed back several times.

In December last year, the Punjab government set the “final” deadline for July 30 but even that was missed by the authorities.

Boston-based internationally acclaimed Israeli-architect Moshe Safdie has designed the complex, which is shaped like open hands offering prayers. The monument is termed as a “wonder in the making” and something that has no comparison in the country.

Being built on a 100-acre site at Anadpur Sahib, the KHC is to stand at a site that is the birth place of the ‘Khalsa Panth’, the present day Sikh religion. The second holiest Sikh shrine, Takht Keshgarh Sahib, is located there as well.

The budget of the project has nearly doubled from its original estimates. Funds for the KHC project have come from the government, Punjab’s rich NRI community and religious organisations.

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