Dera Sacha Sauda, the Sirsa-headquartered sect with following in Haryana and Punjab besides certain pockets in other northern states, claims to have disassociated itself from its political wing. But that has not stopped it from indulging in political activities of supporting a particular party or a candidate during the Lok Sabha polls.
In what is being seen as a smart move by the dera after facing some heat for announcing support openly in the past, it has now put the entire onus of political decisions on its wing. “The political wing will be responsible for all political decisions. The dera or its head (Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh) has nothing to do with that,” dera spokesman of Dr Aditya Insaan told HT. “What happened to the dera followers in the past for supporting a party? They were beaten up, intimidated and their houses were burnt.” Now, Dr Insaan said, “For our political wing, we have drawn out a broad charter listing the dos and don’ts for all candidates, on the basis of which support is to be announced.”
The dera had openly supported the Congress in the Punjab assembly polls of 2007, in which the SAD-BJP coalition was victorious. Some Congress victories, particularly in the Malwa belt, were credited to the dera. In the 2012 Punjab polls, the dera had a more cautious approach and went for a pick-and-choose policy, supporting candidates across parties. This was quite contrary to that dera’s practice in the past of asking the Premis (as the dera’s followers are called) to vote for a particular party as a diktat from the head.
However, Dr Insaan insisted that the dera head had never issued any diktat. He said the “Premis choose the political wing”, thus “based on their aspirations and credentials of the political contestant, this wing is supposed to take all the decisions, wisely”. The dera claims to have support of 2.5 crore followers.
About leaders of different parties meeting the dera head, Dr Insaan said, “They come to seek blessings, and all candidates are made to meet the dera head at one time; there is no denial for blessings.”
“Guruji (the dera head) asks all candidates to work for the community, adopt social and religious tolerance, and fight social evils of drugs and female feoticide, and not to adopt corrupt practices. But he never assures them support of any sort,” he added.
Ram Singh, head of the dera’s political wing, told HT over phone that the process of selecting candidates would begin on April 1 for Haryana and then for Punjab. “The sadh-sangat (dera followers) will choose suitable candidates from different constituencies,” he said.