Dera ‘diktat’ fails to influence voters in Punjab

ByVishal Joshi
Mar 11, 2022 02:37 AM IST

After dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, serving 20-year term for raping two women disciples at his ashram and life term for murdering a journalist, was granted furlough ahead of the polling, it was viewed as an alleged political understanding between the BJP and the dera management to woo dera followers.

BATHINDA: With traditional parties, the Congress, SAD and BJP, performing poorly in the Punjab assembly elections, the mass base claims of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda to influence electors have fallen flat.

The trend in the last two elections suggests that followers desist from accepting any electoral diktat. It was observed that people reacted strongly to such interference,
The trend in the last two elections suggests that followers desist from accepting any electoral diktat. It was observed that people reacted strongly to such interference,

After dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, serving 20-year term for raping two women disciples at his ashram and life term for murdering a journalist, was granted furlough ahead of the polling, it was viewed as an alleged political understanding between the BJP and the dera management to woo dera followers.

People associated with the sect tried to give a message that the dera was supporting the BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) at more than 30 seats of Malwa belt, where their followers are in a sizeable number. But AAP candidates wining with huge margins on these seats indicated that the claim of dera to influence voters proved a bubble. So much so that even rebel Congress leader and three-time MLA Harminder Singh Jassi lost from the Talwandi Sabo seat. Jassi, who contested as an independent, is a close relative dera chief.

Ahead of polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah met the head of Radha Soami Satsang Beas Gurinder Singh Dhillon. The development was seen as attempts to influence dera voters.

Both Dera Sacha Sauda and Radha Soami Satsang have a large following across the state.

Political watchers say in the past, there had been occasions when several deras, especially the Sirsa-headquartered dera, asked its followers to vote for a particular party in polls. But this time, there was hardly any impact of such “unofficial” diktat.

Guru Nanak Dev University’s former head of political science department Professor Jagrup Singh Sekhon says the trend in the last two elections suggests that followers desist from accepting any electoral diktat. It was observed that people reacted strongly to such interference, he said.

Prof Ashutosh Kumar from the department of political science, Panjab University, said the AAP’s chief minister face Bhagwant Mann did not visit any of the deras. This gave a message that religious organisations should not interfere in electoral politics.

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