Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday paid a secret visit to Dera Sachkhand Ballan for a closed-door meeting with its head, Niranjan Dass, to seek Dalit support in next year’s state elections.
Amarinder reached the dera at 5pm, discussed political issues with its head, and sought his “wholehearted blessings” for the Congress victory in the upcoming assembly elections, sources have said. Instead of Doaba Congress leaders, he took Patiala party activist Kabir Dass, who is close to the dera head, along. “It was a top secret meeting to discuss all important issues concerning the state, and it went on for more than an hour. Nothing more can be revealed,” said a senior member of Captain’s personal staff.
Sources add that Captain told the dera head about the assurances he had given to the Dalits in a two-day conclave that ended in Ludhiana on Tuesday. He is reported to have also taken a few suggestions from the dera head about the welfare of the Dalits in Doaba. Inputs from the dera suggest that it was Niranjan Dass who insisted on secrecy. He barred even Amarinder’s media team from taking a photograph of their meeting.
Dera Sachkhand Ballan has a good hold over Ravidassias, biggest section of the Dalit community in Doaba region, and its open support to any political party can upset the equation for others. It was Amarinder’s second meeting with the dera head in less than four months. Last October, apart from sharing the stage with Niranjan Dass at a public religious function, Amarinder was with him for another hour.
Sources said the state Congress president was worried how to win seats in Doaba that in the last two assembly polls has gone with the Akali-BJP combine. In 2007 and 2012, the Congress managed to win only four and six seats, respectively, in the region, once its stronghold. In both defeats, the “annoyance” of the Dera Sachkhand Ballan followers was a big factor. The increasing clout of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) among the Dalits of Doaba has also unnerved Amarinder, who is also expected to visit Nurmahal-based Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) in the coming days.