The BJP government in Haryana appears to have come out in support of giving parole to rape convicted godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan of the Dera Sacha Sauda. Haryana’s Jail Minister Krishan Lal Panwar has said that parole is Ram Rahim’s right if his conduct is good.
Haryana Jail Minister KL Panwar on Ram Rahim: Every convict has the right to seek parole after an year, he made a request which we forwarded to the Sirsa district administration. Further action will be taken based on report. pic.twitter.com/qCzegTgWRn— ANI (@ANI) June 25, 2019
Haryana Jail Minister KL Panwar on Ram Rahim's request for parole: Do not link it with elections, if we had such an intention we would have released him before Lok Sabha elections, government has no such intention. https://t.co/x37gLwkJaS— ANI (@ANI) June 25, 2019
Along with Panwar, Haryana’s minister for health and sports affairs Anil Vij is also reported to have supported giving parole to Ram Rahim citing his “good behaviour”.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has said that “no final decision” had been taken on the matter but asserted that “seeking parole is the right of every prisoner”.
The view of the Haryana government is at variance with the Punjab and Haryana High Court which said that giving parole to Ram Rahim could lead to a law and order problem in the two states. And legally the BJP’s argument that “parole is the right of every prisoner” doesn’t hold if it is likely to cause law and order problems.
So why is the BJP going soft on a rapist like Ram Rahim? The answer could possibly lie in the party’s political compulsions ahead of the Haryana Assembly elections due later this year.
Ram Rahim’s Dera Sacha Sauda is said to have supported the BJP and its allies in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Haryana Assembly elections later that year, the 2017 Assembly polls in Punjab and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The Dera enjoys considerable influence in Haryana and Punjab, particularly among a section of Dalits and this makes it a crucial player during elections. Not just BJP, its ally Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress have also hobnobbed with Ram Rahim at some point of time or the other. But since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Dera has consistently been supporting the BJP and the SAD. The BJP, too, has reciprocated by showering praise on Ram Rahim at various forums.
For instance in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Ram Rahim’s efforts in promoting the Swachh Bharat Mission. This is despite the fact that at that time Ram Rahim was still being tried for raping two women.
Baba Ram Rahim Singh's Swachh Bharat Mission. Kiku Sharda arrested to clean up Comedy Nights with Kapil pic.twitter.com/yuv22pJF5q— Joy (@Joydas) January 13, 2016
In a rally during the Haryana Assembly election campaign, Prime Minister Modi openly praised Ram Rahim once again. In that election, Ram Rahim is said to have issued a clear diktat to his followers to support the BJP.
According to reports, BJP president helped seal the deal with Ram Rahim. The report said that Shah met Ram Rahim in the first week of October and “sought his blessings” for the Assembly elections in Haryana. The report said that six days after the meeting with Shah, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya took 44 BJP candidates for the Haryana polls to meet the Dera chief for his “blessings”.
Several leaders of the Haryana BJP were known to be close to Ram Rahim.
The most prominent among them is state minister Ram Bilas Sharma. There is a video in which Sharma can be seen prostrating in front of Ram Rahim.
Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma recently gifted Rs 51 lakh to this Ram Rahim as a mark of his respect. Shame. pic.twitter.com/G6YKNImrla— Abhinandan Mishra (@mishra_abhi) August 25, 2017
He also donated Rs 51 lakh to the Dera but later withdrew the donation after facing public criticism.
When Dera supporters went on rampage after Ram Rahim’s conviction, Sharma described them as “peace-loving people who wouldn’t even harm a plant”. He even went to the extent of saying that Section 144 being imposed didn’t apply to Dera supporters.
The other major backer of Ram Rahim in the Haryana BJP is of course the same minister supporting his parole: Anil Vij. health minister Anil Vij. In 2016, Vij donated Rs 50 lakh from state funds to Ram Rahim’s sports project.
Another minister, Manish Grover, donated Rs 11 lakh to the Dera from his discretionary fund.
The BJP’s cosy relationship with Ram Rahim extends to chief minister Khattar as well. He can be seen taking part in Dera Sacha Sauda’s cleanliness campaign here.
And here is KL Panwar, who is now batting for Ram Rahim’s parole, at the same event.
The BJP has been quite open about its support for Ram Rahim, despite his conviction in the rape case. Even in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Manohar Lal Khattar said that he will seek support from Dera Sacha Sauda. The Dera is said to have supported the NDA in the Lok Sabha elections, contributing to the BJP’s sweep in Haryana and the Akali Dal’s victory in the Bathinda and Ferozepur Lok Sabha seats.
With the Haryana Assembly elections due in a few months time, it is not surprising that the BJP is once again bending over backwards to appease the Dera. But it remains to be seen what it means for the Akalis, who are facing flak in Punjab after the Ranjit Singh commission has reportedly found the Badals and the Dera of being behind the sacrilege incidents of 2015.
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