De­ras Queer Pitch in Tri­an­gu­lar Fight

Lead­ers like Rahul & Arvind pay­ing obei­sance to in­flu­en­tial dera heads of Radha Soami sect at Beas in Ma­jha and Bal­lan in Doaba

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - Nidhi Sharma & Vi­nay Sharma

New Delhi | Chandi­garh: De­ras have queered the elec­toral pitch in Pun­jab, which is wit­ness­ing a tri­an­gu­lar fight. As the state gears up for Satur­day’s elec­tions, Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda has de­clared sup­port to the in­cum­bent Akali Dal-BJP com­bine though sev­eral other spir­i­tual lead­ers are qui­etly sup­port­ing can­di­dates of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties in var­i­ous as­sem­bly con­stituen­cies.

Dera Sacha Sauda has mas­sive sup­port base in the po­lit­i­cally cru­cial Malwa re­gion and con­tin­ued with the prac­tice of sup­port­ing the rul­ing party at the Cen­tre. What has made the devel­op­ment interesting, how­ever, is that new en­trant Aam Aadmi Party is tipped to do well in Malwa re­gion. Dera’s head Gur­mit Ram Rahim Singh had sup­ported Congress in Malwa in 2007 As­sem­bly elec­tions. Congress’ de­feat had raised ques­tions on his in­flu­ence over vot­ers’ pref­er­ence. How­ever, ‘babas’ re­main much sought af­ter be­fore polling.

Par­ties have been ac­tively court­ing dera heads, with top lead­ers like Congress vice-pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal pay­ing obei­sance to in­flu­en­tial dera heads of Radha Soami sect at Beas in Ma­jha re­gion and Bal­lan in Doaba re­gion.

Though the two de­ras of­fi­cially main­tain that they do not ad­vise fol­low­ers on who to vote for, can­di­dates queue up and lobby ac­tively for their bless­ings.

Ac­cord­ing to sources in both the de­ras, the heads have pre­ferred to choose can­di­dates and not party this time. “Babaji has not ad­vised is fol­low­ers to spread the word for a spe­cific party this time. The can­di­dates of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties in dif­fer­ent As­sem­bly seg­ments are be­ing blessed in the polls,” said an in­sider be­long­ing to the Radha Soami dera, pop­u­larly known as Dera Beasi near Am­rit­sar. The re­cent ap­point­ment of Dera Beasi’s Baba Gurinder Singh Dhillon’s brother-in-law Par­min­der Singh Sekhon as ad­vi­sor to chief min­is­ter Parkash Singh Badal was seen as an in­di­ca­tion of the dera’s tilt to­wards Akali-BJP com­bine. How­ever, Gandhi’s re­cent stay is be­ing seen as “fruit­ful”.

In Doaba, Congress sup­port­ers have been claim­ing the bless­ings of Dera Bal­lan’s Sant Nir a nj a n Dass. Last week’s visit by Gandhi was seen as an­other in­di­ca­tion. How­ever, other par­ties have the same claim. An aide told ET, “he has given his bless­ings to can­di­dates and not to po­lit­i­cal par­ties.”

MES­SAGE LOUD & CLEAR Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh

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