Facing a high level of factionalism, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has been taking services of local fortunetellers and heads of village-level deras to woo the voters, especially women, in favour of Harsimrat Kaur Badal in rural areas of the Mansa district, the most backward district of the state.
Rural district Mansa is the toughest battleground for Harsimrat in the parliamentary constituency where a high degree of factionalism in the party and resentment against the local leaders is making it difficult for the SAD candidate to create a link with the people.
Harsimrat is also aware of the factionalism as she herself is appealing to the people to shun groupism and unite in her speeches in villages. However, as such appeals have not been seemingly working, the SAD has been using its links with smalltime spiritual personalities in villages to woo voters.
There have been many small religious deras, fortunetellers and sorcerers with their followers, mostly women, spread across a few villages of the constituency. Nowadays, Harsimrat is a frequent visitor to these deras and spiritual chiefs.
Hence, it is not surprising that now women in the villages are getting a pleasant surprise by receiving calls from their godmen and the fortunetellers they visit frequently on their phones.
A woman sorcerer in the Mander village of Bhudhlada has been proving instrumental for SAD as she has been making calls to her women followers to vote for Harsimrat.
Similarly, a road to a dera is under reconstruction in the Bachuana village these days. In exchange, phone calls are being made from the dera in the area to followers to ensure people vote for Harsimrat. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal also visits this dera at times.
HT found that many disciples and followers use their mobiles to remain in contact with their godmen who do not have large following but have an impact in their respective areas.
Village-level SAD leaders have been making lists of such followers and giving their contact to their respective godmen and spiritual leaders.