Followers of Dera Sacha Sauda will support candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) alliance in the February 4 Punjab assembly elections.
“After a meeting with the the sadh-sangat (followers), we have decided to support the SAD-BJP,” Ram Singh, chairman of the political affairs committee of the Sirsa (Haryana)-headquartered sect, said.
Followers of the dera headed by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh have major presence in 27 segments, especially in the Malwa region that accounts for 69 of the 117 seats. In the last election, the dera had thrown its weight behind the Congress, and the SAD-BJP was thus routed in its Malwa stronghold, even as the alliance got a simple majority.
“Now our block members and 45-member committee will start sending text messages to our followers to vote for candidates of the SAD and BJP,” Ram Singh added. The decision was taken after a closed-door meeting of the political wing members on Tuesday night in Sangrur. The dera claims to have 5 crore followers across India, of which 35 lakh are said to be from Punjab.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the Haryana assembly polls after that, the dera had backed the BJP
Leaders from across parties had been visiting the dera to meet Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh — who faces cases of rape and murder — over the past few weeks, but he maintains that the political wing takes the decision.