Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, first grabbed eyeballs in 2007, when his purported imitation of Guru Gobind Singh upset the Sikhs and created a law and order problem in Punjab and Haryana. So intense was the angst against him that Sikh radicals such as Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh had sought his head for this blasphemous act.
A plethora of criminal cases being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) — the murders of dera follower Ranjit Singh and journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati, the rape case of two sadhvis, and the alleged castration of dera followers — means that Ram Rahim is never out of the news.
Over the years, he has strategically helped political parties of various hues during elections. Politicians from across the spectrum often visit him to seek his “blessings” before the polls. His recent call to his followers – which he terms as the decision of the sangat — to support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the assembly elections in Haryana — is said to have tilted the scales in favour of the saffron party, which for the first time was able to get majority in the assembly.
The dera chief had helped the Congress in the 2007 Punjab assembly polls, facilitating a dent in the Akali bastion in Malwa and consequently antagonising the Akalis and Panthic organisations. His son is married to the daughter of Punjab Congress leader Harminder Singh Jassi, who won in 2007 from the Talwandi Sabo seat.
The previous Congress government in Haryana, too, had benefited electorally from the dera head’s generosity. Then Congress regime was the first to provide him with Z-plus security cover on the grounds of grave threat to his life in 2007, soon after the costume controversy. The BJP government has retained the security cover for him. Ram Rahim is the only individual, besides Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, to have Z-plus security in the state.