CHANDIGARH: Self-styled controversial godmen Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh and Sant Rampal of Satlok Ashram who had a huge number of followers and influenced voters in the last elections in Haryana are now behind bars ahead of the assembly polls in the state. But, with the election campaign heating up, the social media teams of these godmen have suddenly become active.
In the last assembly elections, these godmen were roaming freely and called the shots as politicians of different parties went to their deras to seek their blessings. Besides, they were active on social media themselves. Now, as they are in jail, they are doing their best to avoid political irrelevance as their popularity has dwindled considerably over the last few years. Their social media teams are trying to make their presence felt by political parties.
"The teams of these godmen are keeping an eye on the social media posts of politicians including the PM and CM. They then tag the post of the political personality which is trending the most. They comment and re-tweet these posts and also put up videos on the social work done by the godman who they claim has been framed," said an insider, adding that young professionals have been hired by these deras with big pay packages to run the social media platforms.
The ruling BJP has rendered these godmen politically insignificant during the upcoming assembly election. In the 2014 assembly elections, the Dera Sacha Sauda played a major role as it told supporters, known as 'Premis’, to back the BJP and thus the saffron party for the first time formed the government on its own in the state by winning 47 seats.
This time, none of the political parties in the state, including the BJP, Congress, INLD and JJP, have spoken a word against the Dera. They have also been silent over the fact that Ram Rahim was trying to seek parole from the court ahead of these elections. Same is the case with Sant Rampal who was convicted for murder in 2015 and is presently in jail.
The Radha Soami Satsang Beas and Nirankari Mission who also have influence in the state are trying to take a neutral position. Other lesser known godmen are also trying to flex their muscles. Baba Balak Nath of the Mast Nath dera, who is also the chancellor of Baba Mast Nath University in Rohtak, has influence over the Nath community.
Baba Kapil Puri who heads the GauKaran Dham dera, also in Rohtak, has clout over the Punjabi community as does Baba Karan Puri. Both of them have close associations with the Congress. Mahant Satish Dass, whose dera is in Meham, was in the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) but had some time back formally joined the BJP.