Five states are gearing up for their upcoming state assembly elections, sparking discussions about crucial seats and standout candidates. The intertwining of politics and Sadhus dates back to involvement ranging from advocating five-year plans to one even ascending to the position of Chief Minister.
Today, we bring you details about eight such Sadhus who are throwing their hats into the electoral ring in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan, marking a significant presence of Sadhus in any assembly election. Even parties like Congress are leveraging the wave of Sanatan Dharma, entrusting these Sadhus with crucial campaign responsibilities and assigning them pivotal seats for the elections.
Among these three states, a total of eight Sadhus are in the electoral fray, with one among them aspiring to become the Chief Minister. The outcome of who emerges victorious and who faces defeat will be determined on result day. For our readers, we outline their accomplishments and roles in this article.
Sadhus in Rajasthan
Starting with Rajasthan, both Congress and BJP have fielded Sadhus as candidates. BJP has thus far declared tickets for Mahant Balaknath, Otram Dewasi, and Mahant Pratap Puri. Conversely, Congress has extended a ticket to Islamic religious leader Saleh Mohammad. Sadhvi Anadi Saraswati, who recently joined the party, is also in contention for a ticket, with discussions underway about her candidacy from Ajmer.
Mahant Balaknath Yogi, a BJP candidate contesting from the Tijara constituency, currently holds the position of Member of Parliament from the Alwar Lok Sabha seat. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath accompanied Balaknath during his nomination.
Balaknath is a yogi affiliated with the Nath sect, which wields significant influence in various districts along the Haryana-Rajasthan border. Within the BJP in Rajasthan, Mahant Balaknath is also being considered as a potential contender for the Chief Minister’s position.
It is worth noting that, for the first time in two decades, the BJP has refrained from announcing its chief ministerial candidate ahead of the elections in Rajasthan.
Turning to Mahant Pratap Puri, he serves as the head of Taratara Math, an institution highly active in the Barmer region. Pratap Puri had previously contested elections from the Pokhran constituency in 2018, but he faced defeat.
Pratap Puri received his early education in Lilsar village and later sought guidance from Mohan Puri of Taratara Math at a young age. As an adult, he pursued advanced studies in Shastra Khand at a Gurukul in the Cheshire district of Haryana.
In the previous election, Congress fielded Saleh Mohammad to challenge Mahant Pratap Puri. Saleh Mohammad is an Islamic religious leader, and his father, known as Ghazi Fakir, holds a revered position in the Jaisalmer area within the Sindhi Muslim community.
Saleh also secured a victory from Pokhran in 2008 and served as a minister in the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government.
In addition to these three candidates, Sadhvi Anadi Saraswati is gearing up for the electoral race. She is eyeing the Ajmer North constituency, traditionally seen as a stronghold for the BJP. Dharmendra Rathod, a close associate of Ashok Gehlot, had expressed interest in contesting from this seat, but the party’s high command rejected his claim.
Sadhvi Anadi was welcomed into the Congress fold by Ashok Gehlot. In 2008, she received initiation in the traditions of Mahanirvana Akhara from Premanand Maharaj after studying the Bhagwat Geeta and Vedanta.
It’s worth noting that Sadhvi Anadi looks up to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as her role model. Upon joining Congress, she expressed her aspiration to serve the people through politics, much like Yogi.
Sadhus in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, numerous Sadhus have gained the trust of both the BJP and Congress in their respective states.
One particularly intriguing figure is “Mirchi Baba,” who is running for office in Madhya Pradesh’s Budhni constituency. This seat is significant as it is the one from which BJP’s incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh has filed his nomination. Historically, Budhni has been a stronghold for the BJP, never having lost an election here under CM Shivraj’s leadership.
Mirchi Baba, whose full name is Mahamandaleshwar Swami Vairagyanand, has been nominated by the Samajwadi Party to contest from Budhni. Originally hailing from Bhind, he gained prominence before the 2018 elections. Following the formation of the Congress government, he was granted the status of Minister of State. In 2019, Mirchi Baba declared his intention to take a “Jal Samadhi” (water immersion) after Digvijay Singh lost the election from the Bhopal seat.
However, Baba faced a downturn after the Congress government lost power in 2020. He was accused of rape by a woman, leading to his 13-month incarceration. Nevertheless, he was subsequently acquitted by the court.
Since then, Baba has been openly critical of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. When the Congress did not field a candidate from the Budhni seat, Baba went to Lucknow to meet Akhilesh Yadav. After securing his ticket, he joined the Samajwadi Party.
Similarly, Sushil Satya Maharaj, commonly known as “Sabke Maharaj,” is vying for the Rewa seat. He had also contested from the same seat in the 2018 elections. According to Sushil Maharaj, familial conflicts led him to retreat to the Himalayas, where he engaged in rigorous penance for a decade. He informed journalists that he could not bear to witness the deterioration of Rewa, hence his decision to run in the elections.
Similarly, in Chhattisgarh, Ramsundar Das is competing for the Raipur seat and serves as the head of Dudhadhari Math. It is widely acknowledged that Vaishnavdas, the math’s previous leader, was highly impressed by Ramsundar Das’s knowledge, leading him to designate him as his successor.
Ramsundar Das also holds the position of Chairman of the Gauseva Board and has been accorded the status of Minister of State by the Chhattisgarh government. He has previously served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly under the current Congress government led by Bhupesh Baghel.
How Sadhus came into politics?
It’s important to note that after the Ram Mandir movement in the country, many Sadhus transitioned into politics. Among them, prominent figures include Uma Bharti, Satpal Maharaj, Chinmayanand, Yogi Adityanath, and Sakshi Maharaj.
Uma Bharti rose to become the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh after serving as a Union Minister. Her impassioned speeches played a pivotal role in ending Digvijay Singh’s 10-year rule. Satpal Maharaj holds considerable influence in Uttarakhand politics and has held ministerial positions in various governments.
Chinmayanand held a ministerial position in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government. Sakshi Maharaj currently serves as an MP representing Unnao. In the 2019 Indian general election, Sadhvi Pragya Bharti contested from the Bhopal constituency, winning against Digvijaya Singh, the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Her political entry was marked by controversy, as she faced charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and MCOCA Act. The case is still pending in court.
Yogi Adityanath, the head of Gorakhnath Peeth, currently serves as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. His mentor, Digvijaynath, was also an MP from Gorakhpur.