With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reduced to three seats in the Delhi assembly elections, the “mass base” claims of its public supporter, Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, have fallen flat third time in row.
The dera led by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, one of the vocal admirers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had claimed to have nearly 22-lakh followers in Delhi alone, including 12 to 15 lakh potential voters. The BJP polled about 29 lakh votes in Delhi. If the dera claims are true, the BJP has to more to worry.
2007 Punjab polls
The dera that makes a show of its “electoral power” has failed consistently to turn it into votes. In 2007, it supported the Congress openly in the Punjab elections. In Malwa, where its base was believed to be strongest, the Congress won only 37 of the 65 seats. Spurned by the dera, the Shiromani Akali Dal also won only 28 in the region but went on to form the state government. Labelled dera’s party, the Congress has failed to regain power since.
The lead that Congress took in Malwa was all credit to Captain Amarinder Singh, who had introduced profitable Bt cotton in the region.
In the aftermath, Ram Rahim came into confrontation with the Akal Takht when he allegedly dressed up as Guru Gobind Singh; and in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the dera was forced to keep its cards close to its chest, so there were no figures or analysis.
In the run-up to the 2012 assembly elections in the state, the dera head’s close relative and former Congress legislator Harmander Singh Jassi organised a rally for party’s chief ministerial candidate Captain Amarinder Singh in Bathinda. Hailing dera followers, Captain promised them justice for the alleged atrocities of the Akali regime. It proved no help and Jassi himself lost by 8,000 votes from the Bathinda (Urban) constituency. In the 2014 by-election in Talwandi Sabo, the outcome was no different.
2014 Haryana polls
In 2014, after seven years of silence on its political choice, the dera announced its support to the BJP in the Haryana assembly elections. The BJP won only seven of the 26 seats in western Haryana where the dera effect was calculated to be strongest. Most BJP candidates there trailed by big margin and the party won no seat in the 100-kilometre radius of dera headquarters Sirsa.
In the dera’s base district, it was blanked out. In more embarrassment for Ram Rahim, the saffrons lost badly in the village where Ram Rahim voted along with his family.
The BJP won most of its 47 seats without any dera support. Even though Sikh hardliners accuse Punjab’s ruling family of being in a hidden pact with the dera, since it avoids speaking about Ram Rahim in public, it has never asked him for votes publicly after 2007.
The way, the BJP welcomed dera support in Delhi was sure to dent its Sikh vote bank, especially when Aam Adami Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal was quick to say no to support from Imam Bukhari to avoid any polarisation of Hindu-Muslim votes.