A rising star in the baba-politico firmament, Bhaiyyuji not only played a crucial role backstage in ending Anna Hazare's fast, but was also seen breaking Narendra Modi's sadbhavana fast. So who is this new spiritual guru hanging out with top politicians?
Akash Bisht Delhi
A week after Anna Hazare began his fast at Ramlila Ground in August this year, there were no signs of a consensus. The Hazare camp, especially hardliners Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, became rigid, even while the government seemed to be tied up in knots. Negotiators were at their wit's end, while the aggressive Kejriwal-Bedi duo often took brazenly unreasonable positions, almost overruling parliamentary proceedings.
Amid the chaos, a senior Congress functionary told this reporter that a team from Maharashtra, including ministers, have been roped in as emissaries. Union cabinet ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Shinde had earlier dealt with Hazare in Maharashtra. Names of the state's additional chief secretary, UC Sarangi, and 43-year-old
'spiritual guru' Bhaiyyuji Maharaj were being discussed.
Bhaiyyuji, who? Bhaiyyuji's name did not ring a bell.
Bhaiyyuji was pressed into service due to his "cordial relations" with Hazare. "I have known Annaji for close to a decade and have done a lot of development work near Ralegan Siddhi," Bhaiyyuji told Hardnews. His real name is Udaysingh Deshmukh. He is the new rising star in the flourishing baba-politicians galaxy in India. Apparently, the crème de la crème of Maharashtra's top political leadership, across the political spectrum, flock to his ashram for advice and other "matters of crucial importance".
Vilasrao Deshmukh reportedly pushed the 'guru' to end the stalemate. "He suggested that any communication with Anna should be done in Marathi as others will not understand the language," said a Congress leader from Maharashtra. Bhaiyyuji denied receiving any call from Deshmukh. He claimed that since he knew "both the parties" well, he offered to help. Another senior Congress leader from Maharashtra, however, refuted Bhaiyyuji's role in diffusing the crisis: "When Anna came to know about Bhaiyyuji, he asked us: what is he doing here? Anna said that he doesn't want to talk to him at all."
A month later, Bhaiyyuji was again hogging the limelight at Narendra Modi's sadbhavana fast in Ahmedabad. He delivered a long speech and even helped Modi break his fast. "Who is he aligned with? A month back he was mediating for us, now he is sitting in Modi's lap," rued a Congress functionary.
Bhaiyyuji claimed that his ties cut across party lines and he is friends with politicians from Congress, BJP, NCP, Shiv Sena and so on. Modi met him during the last BJP executive held in Nagpur, he said. "Since then, we have been in touch. We have plans of working together."
Considered as a "cool" negotiator, Bhaiyyuji had reportedly brokered the seat sharing deal between BJP and Shiv Sena in the last assembly elections. His contribution in getting Shiv Sena on board to support Pratibha Patil's candidature as President is well-known. He apparently helped Nitin Gadkari become BJP president owing to his rapport with RSS leaders. Apparently, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Sangh ideologue KN Govindacharya share 'meaningful ties' with Bhaiyyuji.
Born to a family of agriculturalists in Sujalpur town of Shahjahanpur district in Madhya Pradesh, Bhaiyyuji studied in this discreet town. A biology graduate, he did a stint as a model. "In Pune, he met a spiritual guru; after that, everything changed. He came to Indore and claimed to have attained Lord Dattatreya's siddhi! People were impressed. His followers are growing," said a source.
He runs the Shree Sadgury Datat Dharmik Evam Parmarthik Trust in Indore. He has worked in the rural areas of Maharashtra. His followers say he is different from other gurus as he has banned donations. Instead, he asks people to fund a child's education, give saplings as Prasad. He created 1,000 fresh water ponds, worked on soil conservation and distributed branded seeds to farmers, especially in debt-ridden Vidharbha.
His detractors say that he rides on being the only prominent 'Maratha guru' in Maharashtra. "He is an ordinary man with good oratory skills and some tricks," said a senior politician. Like any other business, spirituality too needs a combination of 'good looks', oratory skills, and the ability to read people's mind, he added.
Bhaiyyuji is married and has a nine-year-old daughter. He enjoys driving and designing cars, horse riding and music, among other 'worldly pleasures'. He pens couplets in his spare time. At least 17 minutes of his day go in practising sword fighting that he learnt as a child while visiting various akharas. "I am just a normal person," he said.