Chandigarh, Feb 1: Sirsa-headquartered Dera Sacha Sauda on Wednesday announced support for the SAD-BJP combine in the upcoming Assembly polls in Punjab.
"A decision has been taken to support the Akali and BJP candidates in Punjab polls by the followers of the Dera," Dera's political Affairs wing member Ram Karan told PTI.
"The Dera had left it to its followers to take a call on which political party to support. Accordingly, the premis have decided to support the Akali Dal and BJP candidates in Punjab," he said.
The assembly election to 117 seats in Punjab is to be held on February 4. The followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda headed by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh have major presence in 27 different segments, especially in Malwa region of the state, which comprises 69 Assembly seats.
In 2007 Punjab Assembly polls, Dera had thrown its weight behind Congress following which the SAD-BJP combine was routed in its Malwa stronghold, even as the combine got a simple majority in the 117 member assembly. The Dera followers have started visiting the SAD-BJP candidates with feelers that the sect will back the ruling alliance, he said.
"After meeting with the sadh-sangat (followers), we have decided to support the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab assembly election," Karan said.
According to sources, Dera Sacha Sauda has about 5 crore supporters who are known as 'premis'.
There are more than 35 lakh Dera devotees in the state, 70 per cent of them are in the Malwa region. Many leaders from Congress, SAD-BJP and AAP had visited the Dera Sacha Sauda recently to seek blessings of Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.