When Ashok Chavan took charge as chief minister (CM) of Maharashtra for the second time in November 2009, he drew criticism for inviting godman Sathya Sai Baba to his official residence.
Chavan, unlike other politicians, never kept his devotion towards Sathya Sai Baba a secret. His successor, Prithviraj Chavan, one of the most highly qualified chief ministers Maharashtra has seen, is known to be anti-superstition. This has given activists campaigning against superstition and blind faith some hope.
Members of the Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, a body that works to eradicate superstition, expect the tech-savvy Prithviraj will push the long-pending anti-superstition bill. “We know that new chief minister believes in science and will not succumb to superstition,” said Narendra Dabholkar, founder-president of the Samiti.
Chavan’s decision to invite the godman to his official bungalow, Varsha, for a two-day stay was an unprecedented move. His critics called it a “superstitious” act that was out of place in a progressive state such as Maharashtra. Chavan did not just stop here. Last month, he added the honorific ‘rao’ to his first name on an astrologer’s advice.
Neither Sathya Sai Baba’s visit nor changing his name to ‘Ashokrao’ could bring the soon-to-be-former CM any luck. The Adarsh society scam, in which Chavan was accused of granting clearances to the Colaba tower in return for flats for his relatives, cost him his job within a year of his appointment.
“Chavan should have known that one can rule not by superstition but by qualities and ability,” Dabholkar said.
Prithviraj’s aide from his hometown, Karad, the new CM is “progressive and does not go to godmen to express his gratitude”. Prithviraj, who studied at the Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani, and University of California has attended several programmes on creating awareness against superstition.