Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda’s move to support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) helped the party register a thumping victory in the assembly election, according to researchers.
State coordinator of Lokniti, a social science research programme of Delhi’s Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Kushal Pal told HT on Tuesday that a study of constituencies indicated that the dera supporters followed the diktat to vote for the BJP, irrespective of candidates, almost en block.
Pal, who is also head of the political science department at the Karnal-based Dyal Singh College, said that it was the first time in Haryana’s politics that religious sects officially played such a significant role in key parties’ agenda.
While BJP wooed the dera, the Congress tried to polarise Sikh voters from the Indian National Lok Dal’s (INLD) electoral kitty on the formation of Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) (ad hoc).
However, the result showed that the Congress’s Sikh panel card did not amount to much for the party. The INLD too failed to gain by opposing the move.
Though the dera had supported candidates in the past, it happened officially for the first time in Haryana.
“A section in Haryana may doubt the strength of the dera’s directive as it is was the first time it happened in the state. But, the group’s political leaning in Punjab worked in favour of the Congress in 2007,” said the analyst.
“Dalits form a sizeable support base of the dera who seem to be insecure because of Jats over excesses in Mirchpur and other incidents. The socio-economically backward strata followed the dera head’s directions and the BJP gained in several seats,” said Pal.
He also dismissed that dera’s direction failed to reap benefits in Sirsa district, where the sect is based, and in the adjoining Fatehabad district.
“INLD has a traditional base in these two districts and heavy polling indicated that Jats, the party’s traditional votebank, were consolidated to save its electoral grace. But it should not be ruled out that Jats did not maintain a distance from BJP either as several Jat leaders from the saffron party, including Capt Abhimanyu, OP Dhankar and Prem Lata, won the election,” said Pal.
In some constituencies, the number of dera followers may not have played a decisive role. But, they gave BJP candidates edge in places where the contest was neck and neck, he said.