Bid to cut into the Congress vote bank in the Malwa belt

BJP leaders have held ‘clandestine meetings’ with heads of various religious sects in Punjab

In the last Assembly elections Dera followers had voted en block in favour of the Congress

Chandigarh: In a possible move to cut into the Congress vote bank in the Malwa belt of Punjab, the BJP on Friday said it is not averse to seeking support from the Dera Sacha Sauda.

“The BJP has so far not contacted any other party or group (for support), but the party will seek support from every one, including Dera Sacha Sauda,” Punjab BJP secretary, Balbir Punj told reporters here on Friday.

The statement by the BJP leader assumes significance in the back drop of “clandestine meetings” of party leaders, including L.K. Advani, with heads of various religious sects, including Dera Beas, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

After the last Assembly polls, BJP’s major ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) strongly opposed the decision of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda followers to vote en block in favour of the Congress at the hustings which enabled it to get major chunk of seats in the Malwa region.

While the Akali leadership took strongly the decision of Dera followers to vote the Congress candidates, its ally BJP came out with an official statement condemning violence by political parties against the followers of head of Dera Sacha Sauda Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Punjab Cabinet Minister Manoranjan Kalia, who was accompanying Mr. Punj said: “the BJP supports religious freedom.” “Nobody can be stopped from following his religion or sect,” he added.

Before the Lok Sabha elections, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP faces a litmus test as they will be contesting the Panchayat and Municipal Corporation polls.

Mr. Punj also took a dig at the UPA Government for its alleged failure to check rising inflation. “The UPA will have to pay for rising inflation in all the polls that are scheduled ahead,” he said.

On the delay by the Parkash Singh Badal Government on appointments of chairpersons of Boards and Corporations, Mr. Punj said that, “I still have differences with the Akalis on this issue”. -- PTI