Weighed down, yet Dera remains indispensable in Jatland

Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. (PTI Photo)

Over the years, the western most region of Haryana in Sirsa bordering Rajasthan and Punjab has assumed prominence in the polity of the state largely because of the presence of the ‘powerful’ Dera Sacha Sauda sect that holds sway over voters.

The controversial sect, led by its jailed Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, with its headquarters in the ancient town of Sirsa and crores of followers spread across several states, ironically, plays a decisive role in electoral politics in states of Haryana and Punjab. The beleaguered sect fraught with controversies is again flexing its muscles to support a party.

Indications are that the political wing of the Dera is likely to announce its tacit support for the ruling BJP. Political leaders in poll fray are vying support of the Dera followers.

The sect's chief is currently serving a 20-year jail term for raping two of his disciples.

He will also undergo imprisonment for life at the end of his 20-year jail term for his involvement in killing a Sirsa-based journalist.

There were talks that the sect chief could walk out on bail ahead of the elections. But, several attempts to seek bail were to no avail.

Even though the sect followers have ebbed after the incarceration of its chief, they still are in sizable numbers, which is why leaders across political parties can ill afford to overlook the support of the Dera.

At the sprawling Dera complex on Begu road in Sirsa, organisers hold regular sessions for followers replaying recorded sermons of the sect chief from the archives on speakers and on a big screen.

With its chief behind bars and prominent faces form the sect either on the run or out on bail, the sect knows well that it must stay politically relevant to stay in the reckoning.

But this deadly mix of Dera’s purported egalitarian philosophy and mainstream politics has had a serious repercussion.  

Despite the sect chief convicted on serious criminal charges, Haryana ministers, arguably, aren’t averse to the sect.

In the run up to the polls, Haryana ministers have openly favoured Ram Rahim’s right to bail.

At least 40 Dera followers were killed in police firing in Panchkula and Sirsa post the conviction of the Dera chief after the followers indulged in widespread violence and arson.

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