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Sacha Sauda Pollitics
Edict splits dera followers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura, February 7
The support extended by the religious leadership of Dera Sacha Sauda to Congress candidates in the Assembly elections has given a new twist to the electoral and religio-politics of the cotton belt of Malwa.

Obviously, the call, described as “fatwa” by political observers, comes as a blow to candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Followers of the dera, called “premis”, have a substantial presence in Sardulgarh, Talwadi Saboo, Pakka Kalan, Bathinda, Nathana, Mansa, Budhlada, Gidderbaha, Lehragaga, Lambi, Rampura Phul, Joga, Barnala, Dhaunala, Bhadaur, Dirba, Sunam, Sangrur Kotkapura and Muktsar segments.They are a decisive factor in certain constituencies.

The SAD has a major stake in segments like Lambi from where Mr Parkash Singh Badal is in the fray, in Gidderbaha from where Manpreet Singh Badal is contesting and in Sunam from where Mr Parminder Singh, son of Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, is trying his for the luck third time.

Many ‘premis’ are confused over the development. They have distanced themselves from the call given by the political committee of the dera. “The edit has been issued by the political committee and not by the Sant,” said a devotee at Doda village. He identified himself as Bhagwan Singh.

However, Mr Ravi Kumar, member of a block-level committee in the same village, said 99 per cent followers of the dera would abide by the decision of the political committee and support the Congress candidates.” The followers wrote to the Sant Pitah about the need to establish political importance and, hence, the decision”, he added.

However, Mr Manjit Singh Brar, sarpanch of Mehma Bhagwana village, near Bathinda, said there were about 10 ‘premi’ families in his village and most of them were staunch supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal. “ These families have put up SAD flags on their roofs and will vote for the SAD candidate, come what may”, he said.

At Raya village on Wednesday, a good number of ‘premis’ had stated that they would not accept the political committee order.” If the Sant Pitah directs us to vote for a particular candidate or a party, only then will we vote accordingly”, they said in a press note released to various newspapers. There are reports that tension between supporters of the SAD and followers of the dera has started building up.

“Already, Punjab has witnessed such a situation in the late 70s.The Akalis then had a violent clash with followers of another sect and the people of Punjab had to pay a heavy price for it “, said a political analyst.”

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A question of 6.14 lakh votes
Chander Parkash and Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 7
Parties roping in the support of small deras in rural Punjab was nothing new, but the Congress roping in the powerful Dera Sacha Sauda is a new development. The dera commands nearly 6.71 lakh votes all over the state as per the claim of the Congress.

Data procured from highly placed sources in the Congress reveals that out of the 6.71 lakh votes, a whopping 6.14 lakh were in the Malwa region. Interestingly, there are 65 Assembly segments in Malwa where the dera votes will hold sway. The Congress candidate from Bathinda, Mr Harminder Jassi’s daughter is married to the son of the dera head, Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

The dera holds little or no influence in the Doaba and Majha belts of the state where there are 52 Assembly seats. There are just 50,000 odd votes in these regions. In eight districts, Kapurthala, Tarn Taran, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Nawanshahr, Ropar and Mohal, the Sirsa-based organisation has not a single dera.

Punjabi University-based Ranjit Singh Ghuman said: “The Congress will gain and there is nothing wrong in that. Earlier, the SGPC used to be in the thick of things asking for votes for a particular party. Then there is also the case Mrs Jagir Kaur, basically a dera product.”

Bathinda: Dera Sacha Sauda followers today held a march in support of the Congress candidate from Rampura Phul, Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar.

But dera followers from Lambi flayed the decision of the dera’s political affairs committee at a meeting in Mandi Killianwali. — TNS

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