Swami Shobhan Sarkar’s disciple and spokesperson Om Ji Maharaj speaks to reporters at the fort of Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh in Daudiya Kheda on Monday. Swami Shobhan Sarkar did not want his photograph taken. Picture by Prem Singh
Daudiya Kheda, Oct. 21: The swami whose request has led the government to start digging for gold under a historical fort in this Uttar Pradesh village today ripped into Narendra Modi for scoffing at his “dream” that led to the excavation.
This despite the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate posting a placatory tweet today and a state BJP lawmaker rushing to the monk’s ashram here with folded hands, genuflecting before him and seeking forgiveness “on behalf of Modi”.
A far-from-mollified Swami Shobhan Sarkar said political bigwigs who “enjoy doing injustice to a fakir who owns nothing but a saffron cloth will have to suffer the consequences”.
Eventually, Sarkar’s disciple and spokesperson, Swami Om Ji Maharaj, said Modi’s apology had been accepted — but only on the ground of the Gujarat chief minister’s “ignorance” of matters relating to Uttar Pradesh.
BJP sources have said Modi plans to contest next year’s general election from outside Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh is one of the possible venues.
On Friday, as the Archaeological Survey of India began digging under the ruins of 19th-century king Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh’s fort, Modi had said: “The whole world is making fun of us. Someone dreamt and the government has gone hunting for gold.”
Modi has made many controversial statements in the recent and distant past but this is the first time any party lawmaker has sought forgiveness — over a remark the chief minister’s secular critics are hardly likely to object to.
But the comments prompted Sarkar’s disciples to shoot off a letter to Modi on Saturday bitterly criticising the BJP and saying the Gujarat chief minister, in his eagerness to attack Sonia Gandhi, had insulted a saint.
Today, as Sarkar opened the gates of his ashram to give a brief darshan to devotees, a BJP lawmaker from a nearby Assembly constituency hurried in with half-a-dozen acolytes.
Maharajganj MLA Satish Mahana, a contender for a Lok Sabha ticket next year, said Modi had sent him to apologise on his behalf — a claim that couldn’t be independently confirmed.
But Sarkar, a clean-shaven monk who sat on a leopard-printed cushion in his saffron loincloth, a scarf resting loosely on his head, was visibly irritated with Modi. Even before Mahana could start his defence, the swami launched into a tirade against the BJP chief minister.
According to media reports, Sarkar had told the government that the Raja had appeared to him in a dream and asked him to hand over to the government a cache of gold he had buried under his fort. But the swami today said it wasn’t a dream but a spiritual “conversation” with the dead king’s soul.
“I never said I had dreamt about it. I told the government, ‘There is gold here; start digging once you have collected enough scientific evidence’. I have all the papers with me. You can see them and show them to Modi too,” Sarkar told Mahana.
The MLA stammered that he didn’t need to see any papers and believed Sarkar implicitly.
He fumbled with his phone to show Sarkar a tweet by Modi, which said: “Sant Shobhan Sarkar ke prati aneko varshon se lakho logon ki shraddha judi hain. Main unki tapasya aur tyag ko pranam karta hun (Saint Shobhan Sarkar has enjoyed the reverence of lakhs of people for years. I salute his spirituality and sacrifice).”
But Sarkar kept shaking his head. Minutes later, Swami Om Ji walked in and loudly criticised Modi, who had said that instead of digging for treasure, the government should bring back Indian money stashed in Swiss bank accounts.
“What was the NDA doing when it was in power?” Om Ji asked Mahana. “Why did it not bring the money back from Swiss banks? It’s easier to lecture people when you are not in government.”
He said that if Modi were elected (Prime Minister), he too “will have to stick to international norms and follow processes” if he wanted the money back from Swiss banks. All this while, Mahana and his supporters sat with folded hands and kept referring to Modi’s tweet.
Om Ji later told reporters that Modi’s apology had been accepted. “He has worked only in Gujarat; how is he to know about Uttar Pradesh? I’m sure that whatever he said was spoken out of ignorance. We welcome his apology,” he said.