It was 32 year ago that journalist Romesh Thapar had coined the acidic phrase to ridicule Rajiv Gandhi administration run by his Doon School cronies — Baba-Log Government.
The term originally comes from the British period when Indian servants would refer to male children of their white masters as Baba Sa’ab and female children as Missy Sa’ab.
The delightful phrase can be re-applied in Madhya Pradesh. Babalog of a different kind, the saffron ones, have been part of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government for the past five years. And it is payback time now, with assembly elections round the corner.
Some Babas are threatening to pull down the government that had nurtured them. Others are demanding their pound of flesh, more share in power. Some of the sadhus have turned renegades and crossed over to the enemy side. The BJP is reaping what it had sown.
In what appears to be a well-scripted move, some hidden hand(s) is pulling the strings to orchestrate a saffron campaign against the BJP. Some monks, flush with funds, are going around organising other monks on political platforms. Others have thrown their hats directly in the ring.
The BJP’s problem is that it cannot protest against the heady cocktail of religion with politics. After all, it is the party that made a Baba the chief minister of the most populated state in the country.
The BJP government has been playing with fire. It has been gleefully promoting a bunch of religious leaders, some of them known charlatans, on government platforms, giving them respectability and power.
In April this year it drafted five sadhus to a committee for Narmada conservation and gave them ministerial ranks. At that time the BJP strategists thought it was a brilliant move in an election year.
The lollipop was offered to the monks after a colourful character known as Computer Baba threatened an agitation against the “corrupt” government for “patronising” sand mafia, illegal mining in Narmada and cow slaughter and to expose its fake claim of planting 6 crore saplings on the banks of the holy river. However, after his appointment as a minister Computer Baba promptly called off the proposed agitation.
The BJP government started a Narmada Yatra in 2016, where a large number of sadhus were officially invited to share the stage with the chief minister and his wife, with collectors and other top officials in attendance. The BJP strategists thought that it was brilliant move on political chess board.
The government also announced a cow ministry days before the model code of conduct came into force. It has already a cow protection committee, headed by another Cabinet-rank Baba, Akhileshwaranand, who recently openly acknowledged his RSS links, where he said he had worked for decades. It perfectly suited the BJP’s poll agenda.
But the tide suddenly started turning against the BJP in the past few weeks. Computer Baba, who had earlier expressed his desire to contest election on a BJP ticket, quit his ministerial post last month because he “discovered” that the government was not serious about saving Narmada and started an agitation against the ruling party. The resourceful monk is going round the state, organising meeting of sadhus against the BJP.
At the same time, a number of sadhus have either thrown their hats in the ring or announced their decision to float political parties to contest election.
Pandokhar Maharaj, who has a sprawling ashram in Datia, has announced that his Sanjhi Virasat Party will contest election because Shivraj government had “insulted” saints. Pandokhar Maharaj, who is a deputy Janpad President in his area, is politically influential. Many BJP and Congress politicians, including MLAs and ministers, are among his disciples.
Spiritual leader Devki Nandan Thakur, who has a large fan following, has announced that his Sarv Samaj Kalyan Party will contest election “to teach a lesson to Shivraj Singh Chouhan”.
There are a host of other monks who want to contest — Mahendra Giri from Silwani, who enjoys ministerial rank at present, Khandeshwar Maharaj from Seoni and Ravinath Mahiwale from Raisen. Whose votes they will cut into is anybody’s guess.
The development has unnerved the BJP. The monk with the RSS background, Akhileshwaranand, became busy.
An obscure organization called Rajbhog Ekta Parishad organised recently a conference of sadhus, where it invited Chouhan so that the saints could “bless” him. Singing the chief minister’s paeans, the assembly called him a great saviour of Hindutva and described Computer Baba as a fraud.
It was a clear attempt to rescue the BJP from the onslaught of the opposite camp of sadhus, who are openly describing the ruling party as “anti-Hindu”.
The BJP is having a bitter taste of its own medicine.
DB Post 3 November 2018