Punjab elections 2017: Several candidates met Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh today. (file photo)
Several assembly election candidates from ruling SAD-BJP and the Congress in Punjab today
visited the Sirsa-headquarted Dera Sacha Sauda to "seek blessings" of the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh ahead of the February 4 polls in the state.
Over 20 candidates, including Akali Dal leader and finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, former Punjab chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Congress youth leader Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, reached Sirsa to meet the sect chief.
Notably, the Election Commission strictly prohibits the use of temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras or any place of worship for election propaganda, including speeches, posters, music etc, on electioneering.
However, many of those who met the Dera chief, tried to downplay their meeting, saying there was nothing political about their visit.
After meeting Mr Singh, Mr Dhindsa told reporters that it was not the question of Dera support or otherwise. He asserted that there was "nothing political" about his visit.
Some others said they do visit the Dera once in a while and the timing should not be linked with the Punjab elections
Mr Bhattal said the Dera, like Congress, supports causes like drug de-addiction and sends out a message to wean away the youths from the drug menace.
The Dera has a number of followers in many areas of Punjab, especially in the Malwa region which accounts for bulk of the assembly seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly.
Ram Singh, chairperson of the Dera's political wing, told reporters that no decision had been taken so far, when asked if the political wing had decided to extend support to any particular political outfit.