A contingent of 108 seers led by Avichaldasji Maharaj from Sarsa, a supporter of Chief Minister Narendra Modi during the 2002 assembly polls, is now 'indirectly' canvassing in various parts of Gujarat against the BJP, a move which has taken the party by surprise.
Though the 'sants' have not been directly campaigning against the Modi government, they have been making short stoppages across the constituencies in central Gujarat and saying, "The present government has been in power for five years but now it is time for change."
Sources in the BJP said that after a meeting of the group of seer in Amereli in October this year where it had pledged to oust Modi, a compromise had been brokered with Avichaldasji Maharaj. The present move of this religious group has taken the BJP by surpise, the sources said.
Sources close to the sants said that the group's convoy started from Somnath four days ago and has been touring various parts of central Gujarat and would soon be moving to south Gujarat.
According to poll observers, Avichaldasji Maharaj has a considerable following in districts of Vadodra, Kheda, Panchmahals and south Gujarat and his 'indirect' campaign against Modi could affect BJP calculations in around 35 constituencies.
On Sunday night in Bodeli in central Gujarat, nearly 180 km from Ahmedabad, Avichaldasji Maharaj addressed a gathering of 108 seers and after performing a ritual puja, blessed the faithful present.
Congress leaders say that even though the sants are not campaigning directly against Modi, the message being sent out is clear.
"Even though he (the Maharaj) is not taking the name of Modi directly, his influence among the voters in high. Moreover, unlike the last time, he is not supporting the BJP," Ranjit Rathwa, a central Gujarat Congress leader told PTI.
Sources close to the sants say that they are angry with Modi for the rise in "looting and destruction" of temples across the state. They also claimed that several of their community were killed in the last five years but gave no further details.
"These sants are extending their support to Uma Bharti's candidates and parties opposing Modi as a whole" they added.