SP Sharma & Archit Watts, Tribune News Service
Bathinda/Muktsar, January 16. With a few days left for polling in the state, more than 100 candidates belonging to the SAD, the Congress, the Sanjha Morcha and others visited Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa last evening to seek blessings of its controversial chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh whose sect has considerable following in Punjab, particularly in the Malwa belt.
Irrespective of party affiliations, the dera chief met the candidates on a single platform and did not oblige them with a separate audience.
The candidates had to cool their heels till the dera chief decided to address them together at around 7.30 pm.
He advised the candidates to be good human beings and strive to end female foeticide and drug abuse.
Keeping in mind the backlash that the dera followers faced in Malwa after the 2007 assembly elections when the SAD was virtually wiped out in the belt, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh did not meet the candidates individually.
The Left parties have always shunned Dera politics, but former CPI legislator Hardev Arshi, who is contesting from Mansa, chose to visit the dera this time. Among the SAD candidates who sought the dera chief’s blessings were Saroop Chand Singla, Mantar Brar, former DGP PS Gill, Surjit Kohli, Surjeet Rakhra, Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur, Amarjeet Singh Sidhu, Darshan Kotfatta and Deep Malhotra. Singla is pitched against Harminder Singh Jassi (Congress), whose daughter is married to dera chief’s son.
Congress leaders Sunil Jakhar, Amarinder Singh Warring “Raja”, Ripjit Singh Brar, Avtar Brar, Jassi Khangura, Lal Singh, Gurpreet Kaur, Kewal Dhillon, Surinder Pal Singh Sibia and Isher Singh Meharban met the dera chief as did BJP’s Raj Khurana and Vijay Luxmi Bhadoo. Mohan Singh Phallianwala of the BSP and Hans Raj Josan, an Independent, were also present there.
PCC chief Captain Amarinder Singh and PPP president Manpreet Singh Badal have already paid a visit to the dera.
Talking over the phone, Ram Singh, member, political wing, Dera Sacha Sauda, said: “Nearly 100 candidates of various political parties met the dera chief in the evening, but no formal announcement has been made so far as extending support to a particular party is concerned”.
Ram Singh added, “The decision in this regard will definitely come, but it will take few more days. We have asked our members in all districts and blocks to send us suggestions so that a consensus can be evolved and an announcement made accordingly.”