Chandigarh: Hours after resigning as president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), prominent Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa joined the BJP Wednesday evening.
Sirsa was considered close to the Badal family that heads the Shiromani Akali Dal and the move is seen as a blow to the panthic (followers of the Khalsa Panth) party ahead of the assembly elections in Punjab early next year.
Sirsa joined the BJP in New Delhi in the presence of Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the BJP’s in-charge for the Punjab polls. After the formal joining, Sirsa was welcomed into the party by BJP chief J.P. Nadda in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Sirsa joining the BJP has come as a rude shock to the SAD. Till two days ago, Sirsa was tweeting support for SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal against AAP chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. On 29 November, however, he had praised the Centre for repealing the three controversial farm laws in Parliament.
The SAD has claimed that Sirsa was “forced to join” the BJP.
‘Low level politics’
Senior Akali leader and general secretary Daljit Singh Cheema issued a video message Wednesday evening, saying the BJP had given an example of indulging in “low level politics”, apart from trying to directly interfere in Sikh affairs.
“This is also an attack on the Khalsa Panth,” said Cheema, adding “that this was part of the long-standing conspiracy of the Centre to control Sikh shrines”.
Hinting at Sirsa having been pressured into joining the BJP, Cheema pointed out that 11 members of the newly elected DSGMC had been booked on various frivolous charges in the past few months.
Those who were booked included Sirsa and Harmeet Singh Kalka, the DSGMC general secretary and SAD Delhi chief. “It is unfortunate that instead of fighting injustice and the case against him Sirsa chose to give in and joined the BJP,” said Cheema.
In August this year, while the Akalis won the DSGMC elections hands down, Sirsa lost his seat. He was later nominated to the committee under a provision allowing DSGMC to co-opt nine members besides the 46 elected ones.
Sirsa resigned as the president of the DSGMC Wednesday before joining the BJP. He cited “personal reasons” for leaving the Gurdwara body.
Sirsa has remained an Akali MLA from Rajouri Garden twice, apart from heading the DSGMC first as general secretary since 2013 and later as president since 2019.
Sirsa, a lawyer, had been vociferously supporting the farmers agitation on Delhi’s borders and had been instrumental in getting legal support for farmers, several of whom had been booked in the wake of the Republic Day violence.
He was also the spokesman of the Akali Dal in Delhi. After the Akalis broke away from the BJP in September this year, Sirsa had been openly criticising the BJP and its leadership over the farmers issue.
Known to espouse Sikh causes, last week Sirsa got an FIR registered against Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut in Mumbai for her remarks about Sikhs.
Sirsa has also been highlighting alleged atrocities against Sikhs in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Richest MLA in Delhi Assembly
The 49-year-old Sirsa started dabbling in electoral politics in 2005, and won the municipal elections from Punjabi Bagh in 2007. While his wife carried the baton forward in municipal politics, he fought the Delhi Assembly elections in 2013 and won the Rajouri Garden seat as SAD candidate.
Sirsa won the Rajouri Garden bypoll in 2017 after the seat fell vacant when then-AAP MLA Jarnail Singh decided to resign and contest the assembly elections in Punjab. In the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, he had lost to Jarnail Singh.
Sirsa was the richest MLA in the Delhi Assembly with a net worth of Rs 185 crore.
Sirsa has been the political adviser of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal since 2016. Considered to be his close aide as well, Sukhbir had also given Sirsa a free run in his government in Punjab (2012-2017), where he called the shots in several key departments like town and country planning and housing.
Sirsa remained the general secretary of the Delhi Gurdwara body for almost six years when he took over as president.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)