Spiritual guru Bhayyu Maharaj, who had refused to accept ministerial rank granted by the Madhya Pradesh government over two months back, allegedly committed suicide on Tuesday by shooting himself in Indore, leaving his followers as well as the political community shocked.
“Bhaiyyu Maharaj has committed suicide by shooting himself,” Indore’s Deputy Inspector General (DIG) H C Mishra said. “He shot himself at his home,” Mishra added.
A large number of his supporters gathered in front of the hospital where the 50-year-old ‘godman’ was rushed after the shooting incident.
Bhaiyyu Maharaj, whose original name was Uday Singh Deshmukh, was one of the five ‘saints’ to whom the Shivraj Singh government of Madhya Pradesh had granted Minister of State (MoS) rank in April.
However, he had refused to accept it, saying “a post holds no importance for a saint”.
Prior to becoming the spiritual guru, he had done a modelling stint, his disciples said.
He enjoyed a large following among politicians and film stars.
Mostly all Mahrashtra chief ministers including the incumbent, Devendra Fadnavis and former president Pratibha Patil used to pay obeisance to him.
When India Against Corruption (IAC) movement led by Anna Hazare was at its peak some years back, he had negotiated with the agitators to break their fast.
Political leaders cutting across the party lines expressed shock over the death.
“Learnt about the death of spiritual guru Shri Bhaiyyuji Maharaj. I had personal relationship with him. His untimely death is saddening. My humble tributes,” Union minister Nitin Gadkari tweeted.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed similar sentiments and hailed the spiritual guru for the “huge work” he did for the deprived in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
Fadnavis said farmers and tribals were at the centre of Bhaiyyu Maharaj’s activities. “Bhaiyyu Maharaj’s work towards land reforms, water conservation, farmers (welfare) and education of children will always be remembered. Tributes to him!
“Am part of mourning of his big family and followers,” the chief minister said on Twitter.
Hailing Bhaiyyu Maharaj for carrying forward the legacy of spirituality in Maharashtra, Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said the news of his death was “shocking and unbelievable”.
“The untimely death of Bhaiyyuji Maharaj, who was ever smiling, enthusiastic and one giving energy, is saddening. #RIP #BhaiyyujiMaharaj,” the Congress leader said on Twitter.
His party colleague and former state chief minister Prithviraj Chavan remembered the spiritual leader for his social and political work, which he said was aimed at helping the common people.
“A lot of political people used to meet him. He was a spiritual person, who motivated people to do good. He visited Maharashtra frequently and met a lot of people and was also involved in social work here,” Chavan said in his condolence message.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik also expressed grief and observed that the spiritual leader had taken part in several social works in Maharashtra and MP.
“May his soul rest in peace,” Malik said on the micro-blogging site.
Born in 1968 in a family of agriculturists at Shujalpur in Madhya Pradesh, Bhaiyyu Maharaj was invited by Modi when he undertook ‘sadbhavna fast’ as chief minister of Gujarat.
In 2011, then UPA government had deputed him as a mediator to persuade social activist Anna Hazare to call off his fast at the Ramlila ground in Delhi over the Lokpal issue.
Last year, the self-proclaimed spiritual guru courted controversy on his wedding day after a woman, who claimed to be an actress, accused him of “cheating” on her and termed him a “trickster”.
Bhaiyyu Maharaj married Dr Ayushi Sharma, a native of Shivpuri, in Indore last year, a year after announcing his intention to take ‘sanyas’ from public life. His first wife Madhavi died in 2015.