For four-term MP Sachidanand Hari Sakshi, better known as Sakshi Maharaj, only one thing has remained unchanged in 15 years of politics — making controversial statements, usually from within the BJP, and at least once against it. The party he has represented has changed from time to time.
Before calling on women to bear four children, a remark for which he has been served a notice by his current party, the BJP, Sakshi Maharaj had declared Nathuram Godse a martyr. This was during his current term as MP. Years earlier, as one of the key faces of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, he had accused madrasas of terror links.
He was with the BJP then, too, then fell out with the party, and eventually returned.
As part of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, he became a prominent Hindutva face known for fiery speeches, the saffron attire his trademark. Alongside, the backward Lodh leader also cultivated the image of a muscleman, moving around in a caravan with armed guards during the Farrukhabad elections of 1998. It was one of three consecutive Lok Sabha elections he won, starting with 1991 from Mathura.
He left the BJP in 1999, and promptly challenged the party. He denied charges about his involvement in the Babri Masjid demolition, and coined the slogan “Baba nahin bawal hoon, Bhajpa ka kaal hoon”.
A year later, he became a Rajya Sabha member from the Samajwadi Party as Mulayam Singh Yadav wanted a leader from the Lodh community. They did not, stick together long. Sakshi joined old associate Kalyan Singh’s Rashtriya Kranti Party and, in fact, took it over after Kalyan sought to disband the party. He lost the 2007 assembly election from Soron in Etah, and the 2009 Lok Sabha poll from Farrukhabad, where he finished 11th as RKP candidate.
His redemption came when the BJP took him back before the 2012 assembly polls. He contested from Bhogaon in Mainpuri and finished fourth. Last year, he was elected MP from Unnao on the back of a wave in favour of Narendra Modi’s BJP.
Along the way, Sakshi Maharaj has had several criminal cases lodged against him. He is an accused in Babri Masjid demolition case and named in the murder of Sujata Verma, a BJP leader, in 2013 at Etah along with his brother and two nephews. He was in Tihar Jail on rape charges but later acquitted. In 1997, his name had figured in the murder of BJP MLA Brahmdutt Dwivedi, who too hailed from Farrukhabad.
Born in Bilaipur village of Etah district, Sakshi Maharaj claims to be Acharya Mahamandleshwar of Shri Nirmal Panchayati Akhada, Haridwar, a post equivalent to Jagad Guru Shankaracharya. Starting his career as a sadhu, Sakshi Maharaj gained recognition in western UP as the Lodhs, an OBC group who are numerically next to Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh, rallied behind him.
He is also a businessman with interests in education. Sakshi Maharaj, who turned 59 this week, holds a PhD degree along with shastri and acharya degrees. He says he studied in Panjab University and Sampoornanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi.
Now a group known as Sakshi Maharaj Group manages nine trusts across UP, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Delhi. It manages 17 educational institutions — one in Haryana, two in Bulandshahr, one in Mainpuri and 13 in Etah and Kanshiram Nagar. One of the institutions, named after his mother Ma Madalsa Vidyalaya, has been donated to RSS and is now managed by Vidya Bharti.
It runs nearly 50 ashrams in states like Rajasthan, West Bengal, Haryana, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi , Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. Fond of swimming, he also has authored more than a dozen religious books.