Sikh Youth Divide Helps Moderates Keep Control Of Ross Street Gurdwara

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The LINK First To Report Fracturing Of Sikh Youth Groups In Ross Street Gurdwara Elections Mean Advantage For Incumbent Moderates In Our Nov. 5 Issue!

The LINK reported in our Nov. 5 issue that Sikh Youth Vancouver and the newly named United Sikh Youth had nearly reached a compromise but individuals within one or both groups apparently caused it to split again into two. We further stated that this split and running two separate Sikh Youth slates mean an advantage for the incumbent moderate slate. That’s exactly what transpired on Saturday as the moderates got their vote out – a significant number from the Hindu and Dalit Sikh community – to triumph over the two Sikh Youth slates.

By R. Paul Dhillon

VANCOUVER – Two years of court battles and a delayed election finally came to an end last weekend.

The LINK reported in our Nov. 5 issue that Sikh Youth Vancouver and the newly named United Sikh Youth had nearly reached a compromise but individuals within one or both groups apparently caused it to split again into two.

We further stated that this split and running two separate Sikh Youth slates mean an advantage for the incumbent moderate slate.

That’s exactly what transpired on Saturday as the moderates got their vote out – including a significant number from the local Hindu and Dalit Sikh community – to triumph over the two Sikh Youth slates.

The Sikh Youth Vancouver had taken the forged and fraud membership forms to court and despite the judge laughingly stating that “you did not need to see an expert for these” because they were so blatantly different, the matter was thrown out in a technicality as the Judge felt the elections need to go ahead so that the temple’s business could be run by a duly elected executive instead of a caretaker group under the current arrangement. Nonetheless, the judge found the “forgery disturbing” and fraud was proven in court, according to Sikh Youth Vancouver .

Now there will be stability for the next two years and this drama will start all over again.  Unfortunately, it will be starting in Surrey in just a few months as preparation for a 2012 election will begin.  There will be challenges no doubt.  Once again our community will waste hundreds of thousands of dollars just so one group or another can do “seva”, as it happened in this election, where estimated spending by all parties was well above $500,000 by one estimate.

We can learn one thing from this election.  “An honest, hardworking, religious person without a huge bank balance does not stand a chance to run for any position” stated Kuldip Singh of the Sikh Youth Vancouver.  Don’t even dream of it.

“There are signs all over like there is a concert and some singers are coming” stated Sohan S. Deo on a radio talk show.  Deo won the election by a margin of 1600 votes and was referring to the huge billboards placed all over Vancouver.

Many people complained that a Gudwara election should not be turned into a circus act.  There were kids on Marine Drive holding up banners and most regrettably even the Knight Street Bridge was not spared.  This is not to pick sides or make complaints against one group.  This is the simple truth.

“Keep the kids out of temple politics.  There is no need to embarrass everyone by standing on the bridge and waving “vote for X Singh” signs.  Frankly they don’t know who X Singh is and more than likely they don’t care,” stated members of the Sikh Youth Vancouver.

The group that lost the most in this election was the Sikh Youth Vancouver (SYV).  They were in a court fight for nearly two years.  While facing hardships during the enrollment process they took the executive to court.  The fair enrollment and a third party election only happened because they made the challenge.  They alone spent over $200,000 on the court case and the Gurdwara committee is estimated at having spent close to $250,000.  No doubt, all the legal expenses were avoidable.

Nevertheless, the SYV did set the stage for future transparency.  As well they opened the doors for the opposition to speak at the Gurdwara during the election period.  History was made.  This is something that has never happened before.  No party in power has allowed an opposing candidate to speak at their controlled stage.  In addition, the youngest ever candidate Sukhmani Kaur Dhaliwal, a 19 year old college student ran on the SYV slate.  Maybe if more women ran we could avoid the elections altogether.

Regardless, the massive ad campaign did not succeed and the Deo slate won by a large margin but a narrow one if you take the votes of both Sikh Youth slates. Also the fracturing of the two Sikh Youth slates put many of their supporters off and thus they had a lower turnout.

Even though hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent the public is not ready for any change that has any association with Surrey and the politics that have unfolded there over the past two years.  This issue was brought to the forefront by Deo many times over which resulted in a fear factor.  The panic resulted in a large turnout.

Deo has invited everyone to work together to address the needs of the Gurdwara.  This is very welcoming as long as future litigation is avoided and donations are not wasted on avoidable legal battles.  Only time will tell if he will carve his own path and restore the respect of this society or follow the same path of his predecessors.