In a bid to woo voters, Haryana BJP leaders line up before convicted godman Ram Rahim

Eyeing to woo the electorates well ahead of the panchayat polls and bypoll in the Adampur assembly, the BJP ruling Haryana government has released self-styled jailed godman and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who is undergoing a 20-year sentence for raping his two disciples,

Rahim was granted parole for 21 days last week, third time this year.

Since his release on October 15, politicians have either been lined for his blessings and even opting to have blessings ‘virtually’ to convey a message to his followers as he plays a gamechanger role in vote politics in every election — be it the parliamentary or the legislative assembly or the panchayat.

He has been lodged in Haryana’s Sunaria jail since 2017 after being convicted in rape and murder cases. He has a large number of followers in Haryana.

Ram Rahim has always claimed to be apolitical, but his outfit Dera Sacha Sauda had launched its political affairs wing in 2007.

Earlier, the Haryana government granted furlough for 21 days to meet his family members in the run-up to assembly polls in Punjab on February 20.

This time after the parole, he is staying in his sect’s Dera in Bagphat in Uttar Pradesh.

Not just the BJP, almost every political party — the Congress, Punjab’s Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — have been hobnobbing with sect heads to gain votes in their favour through consensus.

This time, Haryana Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa was among the list of politicians who listened to his online discourse and took blessings.

Gangwa said he would arrange a big venue with more capacity of people so that everyone should pay respect to the self-styled godman. He was heard confessing that a situation that the administration or police cannot control, can be controlled by Ram Rahim, besides inviting Ram Rahim to attend the gathering physically and bless the people.

The other BJP leaders to vow their loyalties include Karnal Mayor Renu Bala Gupta along with Deputy Mayor Naveen Kumar and Senior Deputy Mayor Rajesh Aggi.

Likewise, Hisar Mayor Gautam Sardana’s wife and candidates for Panchayat elections to be held in nine districts on November 9 and 12, came to seek his blessings.

Earlier, Ram Rahim was granted 30-day parole in June, during which he stayed at his Dera Sacha Sauda Ashram in Baghpat.

Justifying the government decision to grant parole, state Jail Minister Ranjit Chautala told the media that he was granted parole as per the jail manual. “It is the legal right of a convict, who becomes eligible to seek parole or furlough after he has completed three years of conviction.”

Reacting to his furlough, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the body responsible for the management of gurdwaras, asked the Haryana government to refrain from releasing a criminal responsible for several killings from the jail.

Before this conviction, Chief Ministers of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were among the prominent leaders who visited several times his Dera based in Sirsa district of Haryana.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the subsequent Haryana assembly polls, Dera Sacha Sauda, with the state’s prominent sect at Salabatpura in Bathinda, had issued a public appeal for people to vote for the BJP.

In the 2017 Punjab assembly polls, the sect, which claims to have 60 million followers pan-India of which 4 million are in Punjab alone, supported the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance, but the party lost to the Congress. However, the sect had supported Congress in the previous Punjab Assembly polls in 2012 and 2007.

Last year Ram Rahim was granted parole on his wife Harjit Kaur’s plea that his mother Naseeb Kaur, 85, suffering from a heart disease was seriously ill.

In June 2019, Ram Rahim had withdrawn his parole plea after the state BJP government was cornered by opposition parties for favouring the self-styled godman, who sought parole for 42 days to tend to his agricultural fields at his sect’s headquarters in Sirsa town.

Also, the High Court had rejected his parole plea for attending the wedding ceremony of his foster daughter.

Ram Rahim was sentenced to 20 years in jail in August 2017 for raping two women.

A special CBI court in Panchkula in January 2019 also sentenced Ram Rahim and three others to life imprisonment for the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati over 16 years ago.

His conviction on August 25, 2017, had led to violence in Panchkula and Sirsa, leaving 41 people dead and over 260 injured.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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