Deras, NRIs draw the lines on 2 seats in Doaba region

The Scheduled Caste community has 39% votes in Jalandhar, which is the biggest chunk of voters.
Deras, NRIs draw the lines on 2 seats in Doaba region

JALANDHAR: The Doaba region of Punjab —the Non Resident Indian (NRI) belt of the state—comprises two Lok Sabha constituencies, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur, and both are reserved. Many small and big deras propagating religious teachings dot the entire region, and the election time offers a big opportunity to the dera heads to acquire political posturing in the company of candidates who visit the deras for a larger appeal to the voters.

The Scheduled Caste community has 39% votes in Jalandhar, which is the biggest chunk of voters. From Union minister Som Parkash, former CM Charanjit Singh Channi, Ex-Union minister Preneet Kaur and former Union minister Manish Tewari are on a dear-hopping spree.

Recently AAP candidate from Hoshiarpur Raj Kumar Chabbewal met head of Radha Soami Dera in Beas Baba Gurinder Singh Dhillon with his family. Releasing his photos with dera chief, Chabbewal said he has long been a dera follower and has taken the ‘Naam Daan’ (which is given by the spiritual guru, for daily practice to ‘invoke the inner voice’).

SAD candidate from Jalandhar Mohinder Singh Kaypee, too, went to the dera to seek the blessings. Kaypee said he considered himself fortunate to have got the opportunity to meet the dera head.

INDIA bloc candidate from the Chandigarh parliamentary constituency Manish Tewari of Congress also visited the dera. Several other candidates have made a beeline to the deras in Jalandhar released photos on social media.

Leaders also visit Dera Sach Khand Ballan which is the epicentre of Ravidassia community. There are around 9,000 deras across the state and some of them are influential enough to swing an election. Most people in the state patronize these deras which are believed to pocket 90% of donations.

The babas heading these deras are good communicators. Their followers, mostly belonging to socially and economically marginal groups, find their counsel easier to grasp than the sermons from gurdwaras.

The deras also form a protective buffer between the administration and the individuals, since local leaders follow them. With politicians visiting these deras, these deras have also come to be recognised as power centres. The deras usually communicate their support indirectly a few days before polling through religious sermons.

The influence of the deras can be gauged from the fact that the current MP Preneet Kaur of BJP from Patiala visited Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) at Nurmahal and Dera Radha Soami Satsang, Beas, and also paid obeisance at the Ram temple and Nazarbag Sahwara in Ayodhya.

The Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat has historically been a Congress bastion, with the party winning the seat 15 times across 20 elections, including three by-elections, since 1952.

However, the voter preference shifted dramatically in the 2023 by-elections, when the Congress’ Karamjit Kaur was defeated by Congress MLA-turned- AAP candidate Sushil Rinku. Congress’ Charanjit Singh Channi faces Pawan Kumar Tinu of AAP and Sushil Kumar Rinky of BJP and Mohinder Singh Kaypee of SAD.

In Hoshairpur, AAP has fielded Dr Raj Kumar Chabbewal. He faces Anita Som Parkash of BJP, Yamini Gomar of Congress and Sohan Singh Thandal of SAD.

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