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Malwa candidates line up for Dera screen test

Political affairs wing of Dera Sacha Sauda grills 150 nominees of all main parties to arrive at the 'right choice'. Harjinder Sidhu and Avtar Gondara report.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2012 01:56 IST
Harjinder Sidhu and Avtar Gondara
Harjinder Sidhu and Avtar Gondara
Hindustan Times

Dera Sacha Sauda has started screening the antecedents of candidates from the Malwa region contesting the Punjab assembly elections before taking a decision on extending support to them.

According to sources, about 150 candidates belonging to the Congress, SAD, BJP, BSP, PPP and other Sanjha Morcha parties seeking support of Dera Sacha Sauda were called by the dera’s political affairs wing (PAW). The PAW even questioned candidates who did not hail from the constituencies they were contesting from and wanted to know why they had chosen to fight from new places.

The candidates of the Malwa region faced questions from the seven-member political affairs wing, which has been empowered to take decisions.

Though mired in controversy, the dera is known for its fight against drug abuse and alcoholism. It is also known for its green campaign that includes tree plantation initiatives. Consequently, the dera has decided to oppose candidates dealing in any industry that pollutes rivers and nominees who run distilleries.

During the session that lasted half a day, the PAW reached a consensus that no candidate dealing in liquor or causing harm to the environment would get support from “Premis” (dera followers).

When contacted, political affairs wing member Raj Kingra confirmed that 150 candidates had appeared before the screening committee. Refusing to divulge the names, he said candidates from all main parties attended the screening and vowed to fight drug abuse and work for the environment.

Sources said Congress candidate Avtar Singh Brar and SAD nominee and liquor baron Deep Malhotra, both contesting from Faridkot, appeared before the screening committee. Kotkapura Congress candidate Ripjit Singh Brar and Jaito Congress nominee Joginder Singh Panjgrain and his Akali counterpart Gurdev Singh Badal were also present before thousands of followers. Congress candidate Avtar Singh Brar confirmed that a screening session had been convened at the dera.

Dera Sacha Sauda has launched a survey ahead of the elections. The PAW is seeking the opinion of dera followers in writing before secretly announcing the verdict. The dera has sought the opinion of its members in all blocks and districts across the state before arriving at a unanimous decision on the issue of supporting one or more political parties, sources said.

Recently, another PAW member, Ram Singh, had told HT that they would not take any step in a hurry. The dera will announce its final decision two-three days before the elections, he had said.

The Akali candidates visiting the dera could land in trouble in wake of the Akal Takht edict issued on May 17, 2007, asking all Sikhs to snap ties with Dera Sacha Sauda and its followers.

200 candidates queue up for Dera chief's 'blessings'
The political wing of Dera Sacha Sauda has claimed that more than 200 candidates reached here on Sunday to seek the dera chief’s “blessings”. Prominent among them were Jora Singh, Prem Singh and Paramjit Gill of the SAD and Kewal Singh Dhillon and Avtar Singh of the Congress.

“Owing to guruji’s (dera chief) busy schedule, he met all the 200 candidates in Sach Khand Hall in one go and blessed them,” said Ram Singh, spokesperson of the dera’s political wing. He said most of the candidates wanted to meet the dera chief personally.

“None of the politicians was allowed to enter the ‘gufa’, the cave where the dera chief meets special guests,” sources in the dera said.

However, no one from the Badal family has come to meet the dera chief since the elections were announced. (with inputs from Sat Singh)

First Published: Jan 17, 2012 20:42 IST