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
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