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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Dera Sacha Sauda’s political wing in action ahead of elections


Dera Sacha Sauda’s political wing in action ahead of elections

Perneet Singh

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 15

Maintaining a low profile ever since the conviction of its chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in two rape cases in August 2017, Dera Sacha Sauda’s political wing has become active again with the dera initiating an exercise to gather views of its followers ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in Punjab. 

Talking to The Tribune, the dera’s political wing chief, Ram Singh, admitted that they have resumed their activities after a hiatus of four to five months. He confirmed that they are holding deliberations with the ‘premis’ (dera followers) across the state. 

“Our teams have visited ‘Naam Charcha Ghars’ in all districts of Punjab. We are gathering their views. Our main aim is to keep them united. We are not thinking on the lines of supporting any particular political party,” he said. However, at the same time, he said ‘premis’ are of the firm opinion that they should stay united while voting in the coming LS poll. 

According to Ram Singh, they have completed the first round of deliberations with the ‘premis’ across Punjab and there will be two more rounds of discussion before the elections. When asked whether the dera will make a formal announcement regarding its support to a political party, he said he can’t comment on the issue. He revealed that there are 40 to 42 lakh dera supporters in Punjab. 

“Each of the Lok Sabha constituency in Malwa region has at least 2 lakh dera followers while the number is 40,000 to 50,000 on each of the LS seat in Majha and Doaba regions,” he said. 

Balraj Singh, a member of the dera’s political wing, said no deadline has been fixed for taking a final call on the Lok Sabha elections. He said the second round of deliberations will take place after a fortnight in view of harvesting season.

Meanwhile, the stand taken by the political parties over the dera’s support in Punjab and Haryana is a study in stark contrast. Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar was recently quoted in a section of media, saying that he was hopeful of getting the dera’s support in Lok Sabha polls while defending his stance with the argument that it is a political party’s right to seek votes. 

Khattar’s statement is being seen by many as an attempt to cajole the dera followers in Haryana. On the other hand, SAD, the BJP’s alliance partner in Punjab, is treading with caution. SAD chief Sukhbir Badal has clearly stated that they will abide by the Akal Takht directions on the Dera Sacha Sauda and will not seek votes from the dera. 

Political observers attribute the SAD’s stand on the dera support to the fact that the party is already facing heat over the sacrilege issue in the state. The dera had supported the SAD-BJP alliance in 2017 Assembly elections, while it had thrown its weight behind the Congress in 2007 and 2012 polls. 

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