Amidst the ongoing tussle between Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati and Sai Baba followers over Sai's credentials, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan visited Shirdi on Thursday.
Visiting Shirdi on January 1 every year to get a glimpse of the presiding deity at Sai Baba temple is an annual ritual for the three-time chief minister. Chouhan has been doing this for years. Every year, he plans a visit to Shirdi as part of a winter vacation with his family.
Though Chouhan has been visiting Shirdi for years, his presence at the holy town this year goes in defiance of Dwarka Sharda Peeth's Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati's assertions on Sai Baba.
In June, the Shankaracharya disapproved the 'God' status of Sai Baba and went on record saying that Sai Baba should not be worshipped as he was a human being, came from a Muslim family and his name happened to be Chand Mian. He went to the extent of saying that worshipping Sai Baba was a conspiracy to divide Hindus.
Later, a scuffle was witnessed between a follower of Shankaracharya and a follower of Sai Baba during a 'dharm sansad' at Raipur in August.
Though Shankaracharya's appeal to Hindus not to worship Sai Baba went largely unheeded in the Hindu community, some of his followers removed Sai Baba 'idol' from a temple at Betul in Madhya Pradesh a couple of months ago.
When contacted to know his view on MP CM's visit to Shirdi, the Shankaracharya reiterated his views on Sai Baba and said politicians visited Shirdi with specific gains in mind. If they gained something, they shared it with others but if their wishes remained unfulfilled, they chose to keep silent.
He said Rahul Gandhi visited Shirdi ahead of Lok Sabha elections but the Congress couldn't win the elections. He said Hindu politicians' visit to Shirdi was nothing but a superstition.
However, state BJP spokesperson Deepak Vijayvargiya disagreed with Shankaracharya. Deepak said, "Definition of Hindutva was vast. It's not necessary that whatever Shankaracharya says defines Hindutva. Visiting Shirdi was a matter of personal faith of a person and nobody should question it."