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Behind BJP-Sangh support to Dera chief: Massive "effort" to woo Dalits into Hindutva fold, expand vote bank

By Our Representative
Even as violence around the CBI court verdict in a 2002 rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim Singh spreads to the National Capital Region of Delhi with several neighbouring states on high alert, facts have to come light about close links of the ruling BJP and the rock star sadhu.
The BJP's close ties with the Dera chief, found guilty of rape, go back to early October 2014, when he met 44 of the party's 90 candidates in fray for the Haryana state assembly polls in October to seek the "Guruji's blessing".
The meeting lasted for less than 15 minutes wherein the Dera chief showered his "blessings" on them and asked them to meet the political wing of the Dera. Leading the "contingent" was Kailash Vijayvargiya, Madhya Pradesh Urban Development Minister and BJP's campaign in charge for Haryana.
Couple of days after the meeting, the Dera announced open support for the BJP, a departure from its 24 year practice of refusing to be identified with a political party. All of it was preceded by the BJP's detailed strategy to woo the Dera. Exactly six days before the 44 candidates met the controversial Dera chief, BJP chief Amit Shah had a meeting with Ram Rahim at his Sirsa Dera.
Shah sought the Dera chief 's "blessings" for both Haryana and Maharashtra, as he knew, the Dera reportedly had over 60 lakhs followers in Haryana and over 25 lakhs in Maharashtra. After the meeting, Shah was asked to meet the political wing of the Dera. Even here, Vijayvargiya, then BJP general secretary, played a key role.
Around this time, during a campaign for the Haryana Assembly elections in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to have showered praise on the rape-accused godman while addressing a rally in Sirsa.
Amid applause and cheers, Modi is reported to have said: "Mein guru maharaj Ram Singhji Mastanji ke Sacha Sauda ko pranam karta hun (I salute Ram Singhji, Mastanji's Sacha Sauda)."
Later, he tweeted in support of the godman, saying he "appreciates" his and his supporters' efforts to help his Swacch Bharat campaign.
The BJP softness towards the Dera chief is not just evident in the manner in which the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana tried to soft pedal the mood building around the verdict against the Dera chief, with the state administration allowing his supporters to put up camp in parks and other open spaces and store petrol, diesel and arming themselves with sharp weapons and stones.
While the Haryana government refused to impose Section 144, disallowing a gathering of more than four persons, and the reason given was “clerical error”, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh absolved the Khattar government of any blame, stating, “We can’t blame the administration, they took precautions and it’s a democracy.”
Meanwhile, various BJP leaders and supporters, including the Haryana chief minister, have begun to blame this violence on everyone but Dera Sacha Sauda followers. “Anti-social elements got mixed up with followers of Dera Sacha Sauda and resorted to violence disrupting peace,” Khattar told media late on Friday.
Other reactions are even more alarming. Sakshi Maharaj, MP from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, also accused in a rape case, wanted to know why the courts had not listened to the opinions of the “crores” who stood with the godman, adding, the courts would be responsible for any escalation of violence.
While RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha declined on television to comment on whether Khattar had failed in his duty as chief minister, saying that it might "hurt the sentiments of the state", Minister for Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani warned TV news channels that they should not “cause panic, distress or undue fear”.Subramanian Swamy, BJP Rajya Sabha MP, called the verdict a "conspiracy" by politicians and ashram workers to grab the wealth of such organisations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi merely condemned the violence, saying that he, the National Security Advisor and the Home Secretary were "closely monitoring the situation", but did not utter a word on Khattar’s handling of this.
Interestingly, Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma said that Section 144, which was imposed in Panchkula following High Court intervention, “did not apply to Dera supporters”, going so far as to call the Dera supporters as “simple, peace-loving people” who wouldn’t “harm even a plant”.
A major backer of Ram Rahim in the Haryana BJP is health minister Anil Vij, who is said to have donated Rs 50 lakh from Haryana government funds to the Dera’s sports project. Another minister, Manish Grover, who holds the portfolios of printing, stationery and urban local bodies, donated Rs 11 lakh to the Dera from his discretionary fund.
The support for the Dera extends to the Central government, whose Union minister for sports Vijay Goel has promised to support the Dera with Central funds.
BJP insiders, despite massive violence which has killed tens of people, consider Ram Rahim a valuable political ally for the party, as they say, he commands the loyalty of over 1 crore followers across the country, particularly in Haryana and Punjab.
“Dera commands a large voter base of over a crore, with a large percentage of Dalits. They vote en bloc. BJP leaders have been in regular touch with Ram Rahim and expected him to play a major role in bringing votes the party’s way in Haryana and Punjab in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” a senior BJP leader has been quoted as saying.
“Dera followers are not small in number, in fact they are huge. We have to move very, very cautiously. Patience is the need of the hour. A wrong move and things can go out of control. We have already seen that in the 2016 Jat agitation,” the leader added.
The RSS has been in touch with the Dera people allegedly because "the Deras work with the Dalit community, particularly Dalit Sikhs, who are ill-treated by Panthic Sikhs", and this helps the organization to "bring them back into the Hindu fold", an RSS functionary says.
He adds, "The Panthic Sikhs emphasise on the minority nature of Sikhs. We don’t see them in that way. Often even mainstream Sikh leaders take radical positions or appease radical elements. The Deras can help us counter this”.

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
Anything "they" do is because of democracy; anything any one else does is illegal, immoral, anti-national, and undemocratic!!!!

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