At his election rally in Sangli’s Tasgaon Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to staunch Hindutva activist Sambhaji Bhide (Guruji) as one of his inspirations.
Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray had earlier sought Bhide’s blessings during election rallies Shiv Sena held in Sangli and Mumbai earlier this week.
But even as both parties blame each other for a bitter divorce, Bhide said he was displeased with both leaders for not persisting with the saffron alliance in Maharashtra.
A former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist, Bhide is the founder president of the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, an outfit with sizeable clout in Sangli, Satara, and Kolhapur districts of Western Maharashtra. “I had called them both a couple of times urging to persist with the alliance. While they kept assuring me that alliance would continue, they eventually snapped ties,” Bhide told the Indian Express.
Claiming that a division of votes between the former allies was “disastrous”, Bhide alleged that the two snapped ties as they were blinded by power.
At the Tasgaon rally, Modi had said he had come to seek blessings of Bhide Guruji, who had been an inspiration during the early days of his life. Modi also reminded crowds that “at the instance of Bhide Guruji, he had visited the Raigad fort to gain inspiration from Maratha warrior king Chatrapati Shivaji, before accepting the responsibility of leading the BJP to power at the centre.”
Interestingly, Bhide remained present of rallies of both the leaders in Sangli, while turning down requests to share the stage with the leaders. “I have never shared a political stage in my life,” Bhide explained.
“The Mahabharata describes an instance when Vidur meets Gandhari with a request to step in to resolve differences between her sons Duryodhan and Dushashan. She, however, turns it down saying as a mother she did not know whose side to take and that both were useless. People like us are faced with the same dilemma now,” he said.
Having dedicated his entire life to promote the rich legacy of Shivaji and his heir Sambhaji, Bhide also alleges that “all parties had made Shivaji an office of profit”.
All political parties in tkhe state have been using Shivaji’s name in their election campaigns to woo Maratha voters.
“Parties invoke the great leader’s name during elections. He is conveniently forgotten thereafter. It kills to say his name is misused this way,” Bhide further said.
The activist, however, says he would request the PM to translate the ‘sacred texts’ on Shivaji in all languages and include lessons in school curriculum to spread the word on the great ruler’s legacy.
The Shiv Pratisthan Hindustan holds expeditions to various forts built by the Maratha warrior king as part of its efforts to preach his legacy.
Who is Sambhaji Bhide?
An MSc in Physics, Bhide originally hails from Pune’s Sabniswadi. He was earlier associated with the RSS, but parted ways following certain differences 28 years ago. He later founded the Shiv Pratisthan Hindustan, which promotes the legacy and history of the Maratha warrior king Shivaji and his heir Sambhaji.
A rabble-rouser, Bhide has substantial following in parts of western Maharashtra, especially among the Marathi-speaking youth. His outfit holds expeditions to various forts built by the Maratha warrior king as part of its efforts to propagate his legacy.