Bhaiyyu Maharaj’s journey from textile model to Rolex-sporting spiritual leader

The political connections of self-styled spiritual guru Bhaiyyu Maharaj, who apparently committed suicide on Tuesday afternoon, wasn’t confined to a single party. While the Congress used him as a mediator with activist Anna Hazare, he was offered minister of state rank by the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh.

Politicians, especially those based in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, regularly made a beeline to his ashram at Bapat Square in Indore. His high-profile visitors included Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, former president Pratibha Patil, singing legend Lata Mangeshkar, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray.

Born Udaysingh Deshmukh in a family of agriculturists in Madhya Pradesh’s Shajapur district, he worked as a model for a textile company for a brief period of time before moving into social work. It was during this phase of his life that he began giving spiritual advice to people, and acquired the “Bhaiyyuji Maharaj” title.

The trappings of a spiritual leader, however, failed to cramp Bhaiyyu Maharaj’s style. He wore a Rolex watch, drove a Mercedes Benz and always made sure that he was nattily dressed.

He hit the headines in 2002, when a number of Nationalist Congress Party MLAs were flown into Indore in a bid to prevent them from being poached by a rival party in the Maharashtra state assembly. The legislators visited Bhaiyyu Maharaj’s ashram before cocooning themselves in a nearby hotel.

National fame arrived in 2011. The then Congress government asked him to mediate on their behalf with social worker Anna Hazare – who was fasting at Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds to demand the Lokpal Bill. Later, in September, Narendra Modi (who was then the Gujarat chief minister) invited him to his three-day Sadbhavana fast in Ahmedabad.

In 2018, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh offered Bhaiyyu Maharaj and four other religious leaders positions equivalent to minister of state – so they could work towards rejuvenating the Narmada. But he politely declined the offer, stating that he did not need any such rank to do his bit for the river.

However, the spiritual leader had his share of controversies too.

In 2005, a woman approached the state women’s commission with a claim that Bhaiyyu Maharaj was her son’s biological father. A legal battle ensued after Maharaj denied the charges levelled by the woman.

In April 2018, around the time he married Dr Arushi Sharma two years after the death of his first wife Madhvi, an actor-cum-writer from Mumbai accused him of reneging on his promise to pay up for a biography she had written on his behalf.

Police said Maharaj shot himself in his daughter’s room and was discovered by servants who broke open the door. He was taken to hospital but was declared brought dead on arrival.

Deputy inspector general Harinarayanchari Mishra said police are investigating the possible reason for Bhaiyyu Maharaj’s apparent suicide.

Soon after the suicide, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted that Bhaiyyu Maharaj’s death has come as a personal loss to thousands of followers who witnessed his “spiritual light”. He also hailed Maharaj for his contribution to social work as well as his efforts towards protecting the Narmada river and the environment as a whole.

Ajay Singh, leader of the opposition in the state assembly, hinted at a deeper conspiracy. “Bhaiyyu Maharaj was concerned about illegal mining in the Narmada and other rivers. His Facebook posts suggest that he was not under stress. A high-level inquiry should be conducted into his death,” he said

Source: The Hindustan Times, India
Wednesday, 13 June 2018

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