The open support of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recently-concluded Haryana assembly elections may have its impact on the upcoming municipal election results in Punjab as well.
With nearly 15,000 followers in almost every assembly segments of the Malwa region, especially in Sangrur, Barnala, Patiala and Bhatinda districts, Dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh could prove a game changer if he supports the BJP in Punjab also.
Moreover, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader and Ellenabad legislator Abhay Chautala's open criticism of the Dera Sacha Sauda for his party's defeat in the assembly elections may cost heavily to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidates in the civic body polls, as the SAD is an alliance partner of the INLD in Haryana and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had canvassed for INLD candidates.
Dera followers in the Sangrur region, on the condition of anonymity, said that the final decision regarding the support to any political party or candidate in the MC elections would be taken by the Dera's political wing.
However, Dera followers seem to be happy with Prime Minister Narender Modi's praise of the Dera chief for his support to the cleanliness drive at Sirsa during campaigning in Haryana.
There are reports that to garner support from the Dera followers in all nine municipalities in Sangrur district, a group of BJP leaders has also raised the demand of tickets for some of the Dera followers.
Sources with the BJP told Hindustan Times that the party's senior leaders were trying to lift the ban imposed on Baba's entry in Punjab.
When asked whether the Dera head was exerting political pressure to get permission to hold satsang in Punjab, Dera chief spokesperson Aditya Insan said, "I am not aware of it."
"Earlier, the Dera had not extended open support to any political party and its political wing had
advised the voters to vote for honest candidates. This time, however, we are expecting some change and the decision may go in favour of the BJP which wants to strengthen its base in Punjab," said a senior Dera follower.
Ram Karan, a member of the Dera's political wing in Punjab, said: "No decision has yet been taken; it will come after a meeting of the national political wing."
Youth on Dera's radar
Having its radar fixed on the youth brigade, especially the NRIs, Dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been using social media's reach to reach them. Ram Rahim has about 35,000 followers on Twitter.
The IT wing of the Dera is working hard to harnessing the social media's reach into the youth and propagating the messages of dera head, posting latest information and pictures about satsangs and other activities on its official page.