Wielding considerable clout in ‘Devbhoomi’ Uttarkhand, seers, godmen and gurus are not surprised by Yogi Adityanath’s elevation as the chief minister of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
In fact, three BJP legislators with religious connection have found place in the fourth assembly in Uttarakhand.
Elected as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Chaubattakhal, Satpal Maharaj was touted as a front runner for the chief ministerial position but later adjusted for cabinet berth. Maharaj runs a trust called Manav Dharam and regularly features in religious discourses on television channels. He entered politics in the late 80s and never looked back. Satpal has a vast following across Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
From Haridwar rural, Swami Yatishwaranand of BJP defeated none other than senior Congress leader and former chief minister Harish Rawat to find a place in the 70-member House. Similarly, Mahant Dilip Rawat won from Lansdown defeating former MP and Congress candidate TPS Rawat. Both are second-time legislators. Swami is a Hariwar-based saint, while Mahant Rawat heads Sidhabali Temple in Kotdwar.
Though Yatishwaranand was seen as a ministerial probable as he had defeated Rawat, the MLA from Haridwar rural did not make it to the list. Yatishwaranand says there is nothing wrong in having political aspirations as politics is a way to serve people. “We are not here only to sing bhajans. We also need to serve the society, and there is no better way than politics,” Yatishwaranand told HT.
Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad spokesperson Baba Hathyogi holds a neutral thought on seers and godmen making foray into politics. “It’s up to individual (saints) if they prefer to pick a different way (to serve people),” Hathyogi said.
But not all were lucky like Maharaj, Yatishwaranand and Rawat. Swaroop Brahamachari, a Haridwar-based saint who runs an ashram, contested on a Congress ticket but lost to BJP candidate Madan Kaushik in the constituency by a massive margin of over 35,000 votes. Similarly, businessman-turned-guru Virendra Pal was the BJP candidate from Dharchula but lost to Harish Singh of Congress.