In the 2007 Assembly elections in Punjab,the Dera Sacha Sauda had sent out a missive to its Premis (followers) to vote for the Congress,resulting in an unexpected windfall for the Congress in the Malwa region. But,this time,even though Congress leaders are hoping for a repeat from the Dera,things may be different.
Dera functionaries say the strong,often violent reaction to their decision to support the Congress in 2007,has made them cautious and apprehensive. …there is a strong feeling that we must be cautious this time. That is why we are keeping our cards close to our chests. Whatever decision we take,it will only be in the last few days of the campaign, says Ram Singh,chairman of the seven-member Political Affairs Committee (PAC) constituted by Dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.
Dera followers say there is a strong chance that the cautious attitude could translate into a diktat to support only candidates and not any particular party.
One visit to the Sirsa-based headquarters of the Dera and interaction with Premis lets the cat out of the bag: there is also considerable disenchantment with Congress leaders for not coming out in support of Dera supporters during the violent backlash against them,allegedly with the backing of the SAD-BJP government post-2007 elections.
Premis are angry because no senior Congress leader raised voice against the repression unleased against the Dera followers. This time,there is a strong opinion against supporting the Congress. But,a final decision will depend on many other factors too, said a Dera functionary.
While members of the PAC assert that the Dera chief wont play any part in their decision,many say the final decision would be his.
Another reason why the Dera could be upset with the Congress leaders is the fact that there has been no let-up in the cases against its chief.
We never asked for any help from the Congress to settle the cases. Politicians are like migratory birds. Once elections are over,they will vanish… says Ram Singh in response to a question on whether the Dera expected the Congress to help in ending the cases probed by CBI.