Political blessings: In poll time, clout of Haryana deras grows manifold : The Tribune India

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Political blessings: In poll time, clout of Haryana deras grows manifold

Political blessings: In poll time, clout of Haryana deras grows manifold

Haryana Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini seeks blessings of Maha Mandleshwar Kapil Puri Maharaj at Rohtak’s Gaukaran Dham. Tribune Photo



Tribune News Service

Ravinder Saini

Rohtak, May 20

In the searing heat and dust of the election campaign in Rohtak, Haryana’s heavyweight politicians, including Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini and former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, never fail to seek the blessings of ‘deras’, or religious organisation, in this politically aware city.

INTERNAL MESSAGE PASSED

A ‘dera’ insider said “an internal message” is usually passed by ‘dera’ chiefs, a day before the election, to their followers, especially those having long association with them, who wait to receive such a message. It’s a ready-made constituency for a candidate to tap, the insider said.

Key Factors at play

Politicians, however, are careful about seeking support openly. As the election date approaches, ‘dera’ heads take a final call on who to support, keeping several factors in mind, such as electability of the candidate/party, the candidate’s patronage of the ‘dera’ in the past, etc.

That’s because the ‘dera’ heads’ blessings can be a game-changer at a time the BJP and Congress are locked in a neck-and-neck fight to win the Lok Sabha poll in the state. Voting for all 10 seats in Haryana will take place on May 25. These living guru-led outfits — neither temples nor itinerant “bhajan mandalis” — call the shots in the social and political life of Haryana as thousands of people travel from all parts of the state to pay obeisance.

The best-known such ‘dera’ in Haryana, of course, is the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda that along with its chief Ram Rahim has been in the headlines for some years. The list of influential ‘deras’ elsewhere includes Gaukaran Dham, Puri Dham in Rohtak, Dera Kalidas Maharaja in Sampla, Satjinda Kalyana Dera, Sati Bhai Sai Dass and Dera Baba Ishwar Shah in Kalanaur town. Baba Mast Nath Mutt, headed by Ahir Mahant Baba Balak Nath, a BJP MLA from Rajasthan’s Tijara, wields much influence in Rohtak, Rewari and Mahendragarh.

In the life of the Haryanvi man and woman, the ‘dera’ cuts across religious identities. The ‘dera’ guru is both philosopher and guide. If he signals his pleasure in favour of a political party or a candidate, consider the deed done. They are said to make the difference between political life and obscurity.

A ‘dera’ insider said “an internal message” is usually passed by ‘dera’ chiefs, a day before the election, to their followers, especially those with long associations, who wait to receive such a message.

Raj Kumar, a ‘dera’ follower, said such a need for instruction was not necessary as everyone knows which political party is favoured by the ‘dera’ head.

Certainly, politicians are careful about seeking support openly. As the election date approaches, ‘dera’ heads take a final call on who to support, keeping several factors in mind – electability of the candidate/party, the candidate’s patronage of the ‘dera’ in the past, etc.

Small wonder, politicians across the spectrum — from Union Home minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath to former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Hooda and his son Deepinder – have visited the ‘deras’ in the past.

Political bigwigs may be regular visitors to ‘deras’, but local politicians play down these visits. “Gaukaran Dham and other deras are the centres of faith and spirituality. Our party leaders visit there as followers. Hence, no politics is involved in it,” said Hariom Mittal Bhali, senior vice president of BJP Rohtak unit.

Devinder, a follower of Gaukaran Dham, said: “We all usually follow instructions given by maharaj ji from time to time. Since maharaj ji is like a fatherly figure, we take his instruction as a service.” On being questioned about any instruction regarding the ongoing Lok Sabha election, he said the dera was not involved in any sort of politics.

Maha Mandleshwar Kapilpuri Maharaj, head of ‘Gaukaran Dham’ also denied allegations of the dera’s involvement in electoral politics.

“We have nothing to do with politics and elections. Leaders of various political parties are our followers. They come to the dera to attend religious activities. Neither they nor we talk about politics and elections. The dera’s work is to take people towards spirituality, to maintain social harmony and to eliminate social evils,” he told The Tribune.

The ‘deras’ and ‘mutts’ have deep connections with the community. Baba Mast Nath Mutt runs a charitable eye hospital, besides Baba Mast Nath University, giving Baba Balak Nath political leverage with prominent people in the community.

Gaukaran Dham and Puri Dham operate charitable dispensaries that are visited by a large number of followers. Such camps are also attended by local and state politicians.

And then, there are ‘dera’ ashrams located at places such as Haridwar, Vrindavan, Ujjain and Varanasi, which play a vital role in connecting spiritual gurus with the people.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

#Bhupinder Hooda #Nayab Singh Saini #Rohtak


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