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As travelling via the Kartarpur corridor remains suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of its reopening is being used as a tool by politicians to woo voters ahead of Punjab Assembly Polls 2022.

Tuesday marks the second anniversary of the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, which was closed on March 16, 2020, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The first to kindle the hopes of the Sikh devotees is senior BJP leader Tarun Chugh who last week had claimed that the Union government can open the corridor soon.

Now, former Union Minister and Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal has also demanded opening of the corridor by writing a letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister.

“Sikhs have been patiently waiting for the opening of the corridor once again. Guruparv is a few days away and the corridor should be opened before that. The Covid situation has also improved,” said Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Interestingly, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Sidhu, who on Monday had said that he has no administrative powers, went to Dera Baba Nanak to pray for the corridor to be reopened soon.

“I believe that the langha (corridor) will be opened with the blessings of Baba (Guru Nanak Dev Ji). I have come here with a faith and believe that it is due to the spiritual light that everybody will get enlightened. We need his support and blessings. I consider Baba as my father after the demise of my parents. This is a corridor of infinite possibilities,” Navjot Singh Sidhu said .

Punjab is slated to go to Assembly polls in February or March 2022, to elect the 117 members of the 16th Assembly of the Punjab Legislative Assembly.

Credit war among politicians

The decades of wait was over after the Kartarpur Corridor was opened for the Sikh pilgrims on November 9, 2019. Opening of the corridor led to a credit war between the Akali Dal, BJP and Congress leaders .

While the then Punjab culture minister Navjot Singh Sidhu had claimed it was due to his friendship with the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that the corridor was opened, the BJP said the issue was first discussed during the tenure of late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pak counterpart Nawaz Sharif in 1998. Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara was renovated in 1999 and people were able to view it using a binocular from Indian side. Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee had claimed that the construction of the corridor was okayed by Parvez Musharraf.

Later, the issue of opening the corridor was also raised by the then PM Manmohan Singh in 2004. A pilgrimage via Amritsar-Lahore-Kartarpur road link also came up for discussion. The then (late) foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee had also raised the issue of visa-fee-travel to Kartarpur Sahib with Shah Mehmood Qureshi. However, the Indian government did not get any response from Pakistan till 2012. Navjot Singh Sidhu in August 2018 had claimed that Pakistan was willing to open the corridor for the pilgrims. His statement came after he kicked off a controversy by hugging the Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The then Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh in August 2018 had moved a resolution in the state assembly to get the corridor opened. The state government later approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take up the matter with the Pakistan authorities. The PM was also approached by Sikh devotees. The Modi cabinet in November 2018 approved a plan to construct a corridor on the Indian side. The development came after Pakistani foreign minister SM Qureshi had conveyed Pakistan’s approval to the Indian government.

The 4.7-kilometre-long corridor connects the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to India. It was inaugurated to commemorate the 550th Parkash Gurpurb (birth anniversary) of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. It is believed that the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib is the final resting place of Guru Nanak.

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