PUNJAB ASSEMBLY POLLS – 2017
The ‘Sadh Sangat’ also launches door-to-door campaign, seeking votes for the alliance candidates, with also canvassing through SMS and social media
Chandigarh: Dera Sacha Sauda on Wednesday announced fulsome support to SAD-BJP alliance in the ensuing Assembly elections in Punjab. The announcement comes as a shot in the arm of the ruling alliance, which is leaving nothing unturned to form the state government for third consecutive term. The Dera also decided to support Sad-BJP candidate Janmeja Singh Sekhon, who is contesting against the Congress nominee Harminder Singh Jassi from Maur assembly seat. Jassi is a close relative of Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Jassi used to enjoy clout in Punjab Congress thanks to his relations with the powerful Dera chief.
The Dera had earlier in 2007 supported the Congress, but this time Dera has come forth quite vigorously in extending support to SAD-BJP alliance. Its local level committees in all districts on Wednesday organised small events where they invited SAD-BJP candidates and formally made the announcement from the stage. It is learnt that the 15-member political wing of Dera took the decision late on Tuesday night that the whole of Sadh Sangat (followers) would support SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab. The decision followed block, district and state-level meetings held with the followers in the past. On January 19 a major conclave was held in Salabatpura to take feedback of all.
In the meetings, members discussed local issues, performance of sitting MLAs and their attitude towards Dera followers. Feedback was heavily tilted in favour of the ruling alliance. Gurdev Singh Insaan, speaking over phone, who is also a member of 45-member state committee, said: “Sadh Sangat has decided to support the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab, and we have announced our support. We have no powers, but have done it as per the wishes of the sangat.”
“Before reaching the decision, the political wing had consulted the issue in detail with the state committee too and after analysing all pros and cons, we decided to make it public on Wednesday,” he added. Asked about the strength of Dera followers in the state, he said: “It is around 42 lakh of whom about 28 lakh belongs to the Malwa region only.” “We never impose our decision over the Sadh Sangat and take a final call only after a feedback from them,” he added.
In reply to a question, Gurdev Singh Insaan said: “Going by the past experience, I can vouch for the fact that 99.99 per cent followers will go by the decision of Sadh Sangat, whose unity is our strength.” He said Dera followers will now also visit door-to-door seeking, votes for the alliance candidates and will also launch SMS and social media campaigns.
It is pertinent to mention that on January 30, holding video conferencing with media persons in the presence of his followers, the Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim had said: “It is the will of the Sangat, which always prevails.” At the same time, he had, however, mentioned that the political wing was on the job with also conveying his message to all that he wanted the whole of Sadh Sangat to go in unison only.
A big promise
In a thanks giving gesture, an Akali Dal MLA Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu announced that the party in association with Dera Sacha Sauda would soon organise a Satsang (religious congregation) of its spiritual head, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Punjab. The hall reverberated with applause in response to Sidhu’s remarks. They raised hands to confirm their decision to vote in favour of the ruling combine’s candidates.
ALL THOSE WHO VISITED DERA
If the SAD-BJP alliance is celebrating the announcement, the development has given discomfort to many Congress, AAP and even independent candidates who all had visited the Dera just a few days back to seek the blessings for the polls. According to information, former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, Vijay Inder Singla, Kewal Dhillon, Karan Brar (Congress), Sikander Singh Maluka, Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Jeet Mohinder Singh (SAD), Surjit Jyani (BJP), Narinder Sandha and Malkit Singh (AAP) were among the prominent ones who had met the Dera head five days back but returned without any specific assurance. Interestingly, after her visit to the Dera, Bhattal’s supporters had started claiming that she had got the ‘blessing’ of the Dera head for polls but in vain.
Factors which MATTER
Dera chief is facing various criminal cases and some of the cases are also being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Punjab Police didn’t file chargesheet against Gurmeet Ram Rahim in an alleged case of blasphemy that had taken place in 2007 during a congregation held at Dera Salabatpura, Sacha Sauda’s Punjab headquarters in Bathinda district.
Dera followers were irked over the Congress leaders for not standing by them in 2007 when Dera-Sikh clashes erupted in the state.
Some of Dera followers, during the suggestion session, had opined to support the AAP but the majority didn’t find the party having clarity of its moves and also objected to their proximity with radicals.
Sangat’s mood swing in past
n 2007, the Dera Sacha Sauda had emerged as a key player in Punjab politics as it had supported the Congress openly and due to that the SAD-BJP had suffered a major loss in Malwa, the base of Dera followers, despite the fact that the alliance managed to form the government with its victory in Majha and Doaba regions. In 2012, the Dera failed to repeat the history with majority of its backed candidates losing the battle, including the close kin of Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, then Congress MLA from Bathinda Harminder Singh Jassi from the same candidate of SAD whom he had defeated in 2007, Sarup Chand Singla with a gap of over 6,600 votes.
Though the Dera opted not to openly admit it as its defeat or victory, it was said that the Dera, evaluating the circumstances, including pendency of criminal case against its head and also the resentment against the Congressmen for not supporting them when they were in direct clash with Sikhs after the incident of 2007 when the Dera head was accused of blasphemy by imitating tenth Sikh Guru, had gone for a pick and choose policy. If at one seat the Dera followers polled votes in favour of Congress candidate, at the other, they were exercising their franchise in favour of SAD-BJP candidate.
For more news updates Follow and Like us on Facebook