The conviction of so-called godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for rape and the violence that followed “has exposed the political nexus between the BJP and such dubious peddlers of spiritual salvation”, the CPI-M has said.

An editorial in the CPI-M publication People’s Democracy pointed out that the Dera Sacha Sauda head had urged his followers to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the October 2014 assembly elections in Haryana.

“The BJP was suitably grateful and lavished patronage on Gurmeet Singh and the Dera. Nineteen of the 47 BJP MLAs called on him to convey their gratitude for his support,” it said. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself praised the Baba during the election campaign.”

The editorial said it was this nexus with the godman which led to “the shameful spectacle of the Khattar government allowing thousands of Dera followers to gather in Panchkula to intimidate the court and refusing to take firm action to prevent their assembly.

“For this dereliction of duty, 38 persons died and there was widespread destruction of government and private property. The BJP does not ask Khattar to quit as Chief Minister as it is the party itself which solicited the Baba’s support.”

The Communist Party of India-Marxist said the Gurmeet Singh connection was not an isolated instance.

Although the Congress had also sought the Dera chief’s favours, “it is the BJP-RSS combine which has an organic link with these new-age gurus and babas. There are many godmen and their empires dotted around the country who have links with the BJP and the RSS”.

The editorial cited in this connection the now jailed Asaram Babu, “who flourished with BJP support in Gujarat where he first set up his ashram”, yoga guru Ramdev, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Jaggi Vasudev and Amrutanandamayi.

“Under the patronage of the BJP governments and the RSS outfits, these godmen are profitably combining religiosity with commercial-business interests. The political backing they receive makes them act with impunity as if they are above the law,” the editorial said.