Religious feuds in Punjab are seldom without political angle. The sensational murder of the Namdhari sect matriarch Chand Kaur on April 4 has not only laid bare a bitter conflict between the Bhaini Sahib-based Namdhari dera chief Satguru Uday Singh and his estranged brother Thakur Dalip Singh over control of the multi-crore Namdhari empire, it also underscored how both factions switched their time-old pro-Congress loyalty to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal to muster its support in the succession battle.
Both warring factions’ new political alignment coincided with the cloak-and-dagger games in the Namdhari Darbar even before the last sect head Satguru Jagjit Singh passed away in 2012 without nominating his successor. Until that time, the Bhaini Sahib sect was a staunch Congress votebank to the extent that it used to issue hukumnama ( edict) to its followers to vote for Congress.
And now when the knives are out between the siblings, sources close to sect head Satguru Uday Singh believe that some SAD ministers of Majha are supporting Dalip Singh, as he has a considerable following in Doaba and Majha. In fact, Dalip Singh held a three-day Holla Mohalla celebrations at Mukerian from April 1 to 3. “ The government has not investigated Dalip Singh’s role in the murder of Avtar Singh Tari in 2011 despite our naming him in the FIR. Nor has he been questioned in the 2015 Jalandhar car bomb case where Uday Singh was the target. He enjoys patronage of someone powerful in the government,” sources in Bhaini Sahib said.
Dalip Singh has more followers than Uday Singh in Doaba and Majha areas such as Amritsar, Dasuya, Mukerian, Majitha, Batala, Dera Baba Nanak and Sri Hargobindpur.
But Dalip Singh’s supporters claim that it is under the patronage of ruling Badals and the police that Uday Singh was able to ascend to the guru gaddi (spiritual seat), take over their properties in Punjab and prevent their entry into Bhaini Sahib.
“In reality, both SAD and Congress leaders are batting for the estranged brothers as per their votebank. Namdharis have always been staunch Congress supporters. But as the war of succession started, they needed government patronage and shifted loyalty to the ruling Akalis. But a majority still support the Congress,” said a Congress MLA.
Former Punjab Congress chief and Rajya Sabha MP, Harvinder Singh Hanspal, who is a close confidant of Uday Singh, has openly blamed the government and the police for laxity in investigations.
He, however, was evasive on whether the Bhaini Sahib dera still supports the Congress. “Earlier, a hukumnama was issued to support a particular party but since the last few elections, Namdharis vote on basis of candidate and not the party,” he said.
The political clout of Bhaini Sahib dera is not only owing to votes but generous funding to political parties. No wonder, leaders, cutting across party lines, were present at cremation of Chand Kaur Tuesday, including chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and several Congress MLAs.