Dera Sacha Sauda and Punjab Assembly Elections - 2022

 - Sakshi Post

 By Jaspreet Kaur

A number of socio-religious factors play an important role in Indian politics especially in the election days. Assembly election of five states in India is almost at the doorstep. Therefore the different centers of mobilization of voters have become the epicenter for the vote seekers candidates of all parties. If we talk about Punjab, apart from the different sources of public gathering, DeraSachaSauda is one of them.

Dera SachaSauda was founded by SantMastanaJi in 1950 in Sirsa town of Haryana. After Mastana's death in 1960, Shah Satnam took over the charges of Dera . After the death of Shah Satnam in 1990;Sant Ram Rahim Singh ‘Insa’ ascended the Dera. The camp had influence in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and parts of UP.  There are an estimated 60 million pilgrims in the world.  Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have the largest number of Dera supporters. This camp has been the subject of constant discussion as well as controversy on direct support to political parties and some for some proved criminal and anti-social activities. In the Malwa region of Punjab, the Dera has a huge influence over about 27 seats.

In 2002, Ranjit Singh, a senior Dera official, was assassinated. The motive for the killing was said to be leaking a letter regarding sexual harassment of women in the camp. Apart from the Dera chief Sant Ram Rahim Singh Insa, Jabir Singh, Sabdil, Avtar Singh, KrishanLal and InderSen were framed by the CBI special court in 2007 under sections 302 and 120B of the Penal Code. It was for the first time that the dera openly support any political party.  The Congress party in Punjab was given direct support by the DaraSachaSauda. Ever since then, the Akali Dal has been backed by the Dera in Haryana and the BJP in Delhi. It is clear that due to the growing influence of the Dera, the dependence of all parties on the Dera was increasing. 
In Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, the Dera began to make a big impact. In the midst of this growing influence, Sant Ram Rahim was sentenced to life imprisonment in murder and rape case by a special CBI court in 2018 and again in 2021. Since then Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim is lodged in the Sunaria jail in Rothak.

In May 2007, violent clashes broke out between the Sikh community and the followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda over the Dera leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s s appearance and his attempt to dress himself up as Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru. It had triggered tension among the Sikh community across the world.The Dera chief, besides writing a letter to the Akal Takht, also sent a CD conveying his apologies for the 2007 incident, the Jathedar of Akal Takhat had rejected his apology and it has also sharpened the division between the Dera followers and Sikhs in the countryside. However, in 2015, the apology by the Dera head has been accepted by the Jathedar Giyani Gurbachan Singh.Despite this, the influence of the camp did not diminish. Dera has a significant impact on Punjab elections, especially in the Malwa region. Let us know the history of the influence of Dera in the elections.
The political decisions of the camp are made by a high-level political committee.  Dera claims that the committee decides according to the opinion of the pilgrims after holding meetings.  A few days before the election, the committee secretly asked the devotees to support the party by naming it.

In the 2007 Punjab Assembly elections, the Dera's political committee had decided to support the Congress. The Congress had won 37 out of 67 seats in Malwa in 2007.Inspite of this Congress had failed in making government. In 2012, the Dera again supported the Congress, but the Congress lost both the elections. In 2009, Dera supported HarsimratKaur in the parliamentary elections and she won.  Similarly, in 2014, the Dera had backed the BJP in the Haryana elections.  Incumbent Chief Minister Khattar had shared the stage with the Dera chief at various places during the rallies. In Haryana, a BJP government was formed despite a poor base.  In some parts of Delhi, the Dera also supported the BJP. During the 2017 Assembly election in Punjab, after meeting in Salabatpur, it was decided by the Dera’s political wing to support the Akali and BJP alliance.  But after the BehbalKalan indecency scandal, the Akali Dal and BJP became completely infamous among the Sikhs and they lost.

In the current assembly elections candidates from across the parties are trying to attract the votes of dera supporters and they trying to make contact with them.On 25the January, BJP MLA Surjit Kumar Jayani, SunitaGarg, HarjeetGrewal, BJP MLA from AbhoharArunNarang, BJP candidate from Sardulgarh constituency of Mansa DistrictSurjit Singh Milkha, Punjab Lok Congress of Captain Amarinder Singh’s Patiala Rural candidate Sanjeev SinghBittu, Congress candidate Mangat Ram Bansal from Maur constituency, Vijay InderSingla, Harminder Singh Jassi and Deputy Speaker of Haryana Assembly Ranbir Singh Gangwanhave recently joined the event, was organized on the occasion of the 103rd birth anniversary of the second Guru of Dera Sacha Sauda, Shah SatnamJiMaharaj at the headquarter of Dera in Sirsa town. Thousands of Dera followers from different states reach the headquarters to attend the sat sang programme.AamAadmi Party candidate from BathindaJagroop Singh Gill has also come to Dera.According to the sources of some local Punjabi new papers in the upcoming election Dera may support the AamAadmi Party (AAP).

However, during the LokSabha election in 2019, some SirsaDera followers approached to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and made a complaint addressed to the Chief Justice of India, Punjab and Haryana High Court, ECI, State Chief Electoral Officers of Haryana, Punjab, said that the members of Dera's political wing were actively taking part in the election process and has organized meetings with the Dera followers in Sangrur, Patiala, Bathinda, Mansa, Sunam,Dhuri, and Barnala on April 2019.They have demanded action against the members of DeraSachaSauda's political wing besides Gurmeet Ram Rahim and his son-in-law.

The author is a Research Scholar, from Punjabi University, Patiala, associated with Peoples Pulse, Research Organization on Electoral politics. Email: peoplespulse. hyd @

Also Read: Influence of Dera Sach Khand Ballan in Punjab Assembly Elections 2022

Read More:

Back to Top