Deras & gurus most sought after as Jalandhar by-election draws near

In December 2021, the then Chief Minister Charanjit Channi had already handed over a cheque of the same amount for the same work to the dera.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

CHANDIGARH: Come elections and the ‘deras’ (centres of various religious sects) of Punjab come alive. The Jalandhar Lok Sabha by-election due May 10 is no exception. Candidates of all political parties are making a beeline for deras and lining up before ‘gurus’ to seek their blessings. There are more than 100 big and small ‘deras’ located in various villages of the parliamentary constituency.

The constituency has been a Congress stronghold and has 38% of Scheduled Caste (SC) voters. The most prominent of the deras is Sachkhand Ballan for the dominant SC community in this Doaba region of the state. The other dera of significance is Jaura of Ravidassia community.Candidates of main political parties -- Karamjit Chaudhary of Congress, Sushil Rinku of AAP and Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi the SAD-BSP alliance -- have visited Dera Sachkhand Ballan.

Ahead of the by-election, AAP boss Arvind Kejriwal along with CM Bhagwant Mann had visited Dera Sachkhand Ballan and handed over a cheque of Rs 25 crore to Sant Niranjan Dass, the chief of the dera, for setting up a research centre in the name of Guru Ravidas. This led to a political controversy.

In December 2021, the then Chief Minister Charanjit Channi had already handed over a cheque of the same amount for the same work to the dera. “When AAP came to power, it found out the government had not released the amount. So, it just returned the same cheque ahead of the by-election,” the Congress alleged.

Be that as it may. Senior Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa along with former chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi had recently met Baba Jaspal Singh at Dera Baba Brahm Dass in Phillaur.He also visited the historic Guru Ravidas Temple of Chak Hakim in Phagwara and paid obeisance at Sant Nirmal Dass of Baba Jaure, who is also the president of the Guru Ravidas Sadhu Sampradaye Society.

Analyst Dr Jagrup Singh believes such religious overtures by candidates are hardly going to make a difference with the people’s choices.“There are important issues directly connected with the people which will matter in this bypoll, for example, law and order and the performance of the AAP government in the last one year,’’ he said.

Dalits and dera politics

The Jalandhar constituency has 38% of Scheduled Caste voters. Almost all contestants have visited Dera Sachkhand Ballan, the most popular dera for the dominant Dalit community of Doaba region. Of these, the Ravidassia or the Adi Dharam community comprises nearly 22% and Valmiki/Majhbi Sikhs form nearly 16%.

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