Spiritual leader Bhaiyyuji Maharaj had strong ties with politicians across party lines in Maharashtra. Whether it is RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Congress leaders Ashok Chavan and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, BJP’s Nitin Gadkari or Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, Bhaiyyuji had a strong and cordial rapport with all.
The high-profile spiritual leader also played an important role in firefighting social and political crises, from tackling the silent Maratha rallies following outrage over the Kopardi rape and killing to organising the annual inter-religion marriages for the poor.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is on a tour of the US and Canada, said in a statement, “Bhaiyyuji Maharaj contributed immensely to social welfare work in the field of water conservation, education, land reforms and mass marriages for the poor. Through his organisation Suryodava, social schemes were always for the upliftment of the poor and deprived sections of the society.”
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Maharaj’s apparent suicide has come as a shock for state leaders. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Chavan said, “It is shocking and an irreparable loss. His contribution in the social field has been an inspiration for all of us.”
In 2016, Maharaj’s car was attacked, leaving him injured during his visit to Pune. He had been in Pune to visit his daughter, who was pursuing her studies there. The spiritual leader, who never wore saffron robe or took vows of celebacy, was sought after by the who’s who of Maharashtra.
A senior BJP political manager said, “Maharaj’s doors were open for one and all. He never practised political untouchability.”
Recalling the social tension following the Kopardi incident, a source said, “Maharaj played the role of peacekeeper to ensure the Maratha rallies did not trigger violence following the polarisation of the Dalit and Maratha community.”
Union Minister for Surface Transport Nitin Gadkari said, “I shared an extremely cordial relation with Maharaj. I cannot reconcile to his sudden death. It is shocking. He made tremendous contribution in diverse fields for people.”
A senior Shiv Sena leader said, “Party president Uddhav Thackeray had good ties with Maharaj.” A senior functionary added, “Once he had offered to play the role of peacemaker between the warring Thackeray brothers, Uddhav and Raj.”
NCP leader Anil Deshmukh said, “Maharaj always developed very warm relations with each and every person. He always tried to find a solution to people’s problems…”
A senior BJP leader said, “When he married the second time following the death of his first wife, he had said, “Since I travel all the time, I want my daughter to have parental affection.”
Politicians often thronged him in Indore to seek his guidance. Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “We shared a long association with Maharaj. We have always taken insipiration from his social work across several states: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.”
Born in Shujalpur in a landlord family as Uday Singh Deshmukh, Maharaj had close ties with the ruling Maratha families in Maharashtra. Whenever Maharaj came to Mumbai, he would halt at then Congress minister Ranjit Deshmukh’s official residence Shivneri at Malabar Hills. Vilasrao Deshmukh would often set aside protocol to visit his cabinet colleague’s residence to meet Maharaj.