CHANDIGARH: As the Assembly elections of Punjab, scheduled on February 14, draw near, leaders mainly from Malwa region have started flocking Sirsa based Dera Sacha Saud (DSS) to “seek blessings”, a source at Sirsa Dera Sacha Sauda confirmed.
Requesting anonymity, an active member of Dera Sacha Sauda political wing shared: “Recently, a candidate belonging to Akali Dal from Punjab — Hardev Singh Gobindgarh — reached Dera Sacha Sauda and sought blessings of Dera Sacha Sauda.”
It is worth mentioning here that there exists a separate political wing of Dera Sacha Sauda, which issues instructions to the devotees on who to support in the elections in different states. Besides Punjab, Dera Sacha Sauda has a large followership in Uttar Pradesh. During elections, candidates from various states come here to seek support of the followers who are referred as “Premi”. Dera chief Gurmeet Singh is currently serving sentence in Sunaria Jail in the Sadhvi rape and journalist Ramchandra Chattrapati murder case. Despite this, candidates from different parties of Punjab have started knocking at the doors of Dera to get their support.
In a conversation with the media, Akali Dal’s candidate from Gobindgarh, Hardev Singh, has been heard praising Dera Sacha Sauda for works of charity. He said Dera teaches people to engage with the spirit of service and inspires them to stay away from evil. The main motive of the party and Dera Sacha Sauda is pretty much the same – that is, eliminating drug menace. As also to help each other during these hard times of Covid-19.
According to key Dera functionaries, the number this election year has been low. “Some leaders from the Malwa region met the management of Dera Sacha Sauda a few days back,” they shared.
Dera Sacha Sauda claims that the Dera’s main area of influence is the Malwa region that houses 13 key districts from where the state’s political elite comes from. As many as 67 of the total 117 Assembly seats are based in the region.
After Sirsa Dera headquarters, the Dera of Salabatpura in Bathinda district is considered the biggest Dera in Punjab. A huge gathering at Salabatpura Aashram was also seen on September 23, on the occasion of Guru-Gaddi Diwas of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, where naam-charcha (religious congregation) took place. The Dera is organising a big programme on January 25, at Sirsa headquarters, where a large number of political leaders who either got tickets or are waiting for their names to be announced are expected to reach.
Dera Sacha Sauda management claims that out of more than 35 lakh Dera devotees, 70% are based in Malwa. The rest are spread over Doaba and Majha. The key Malwa districts include Patiala, Bathinda, Sangrur, Ferozpur and Faridkot.
“The process of leaders visiting Dera Sacha Sauda has already begun. Big names in Punjab politics will surely come to meet our management,” another Dera functionary added.
Notably, on August 25, 2017, Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted of rape by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court. His conviction led to widespread violence by members of the Dera Sacha Sauda and simultaneous clashes with the police, which left many dead and several injured. On August 28, 2017, Gurmeet Ram Rahim was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In January 2019, Ram Rahim and three others were convicted of the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chattrapati and sentenced to life imprisonment.
During the 2017 assembly elections, several candidates of SAD-BJP and Congress had visited Sirsa Dera Sacha Sauda to “seek blessings” of the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim. It is worth mentioning that during 2017 Assembly polls in Punjab leaders like Parminder Singh Dhindsa, former Punjab chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Congress leader Amrinder Singh Raja Warring had met the Dera chief.
According to sources: “Dera Sacha Sauda has its own political wing which operates from Punjab and Sirsa district of Haryana. After the clash that broke out in several parts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the political wing halted their activities. But the wing started working actively as soon as the dates of elections were announced.”
“We have a simple format to select any candidate or party. The party or candidate who accepts the format like restoring brotherhood, eradication of social evils like female foeticide, stop on selling of alcohol and tobacco, and preaching good thoughts are the main points of the format, we consider such leaders or parties. But later, the political wing discusses the matter with Dera head and management to take the final call,” sources added.
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