After Yogi in UP, will a Swami rise in Bengal BJP? Speculation about a doctor-sanyasi grows

The RK Mission sadhu could be a poster boy of both Hindutva and Bengal’s educated middle class.

Abhijit Majumder August 12, 2020 13:39:10 IST
After Yogi in UP, will a Swami rise in Bengal BJP? Speculation about a doctor-sanyasi grows

It started as a gently flaming whisper. Now, it is spreading through Facebook posts, hushed talk in Bengal BJP circles, and local right-leaning magazines, setting popular imagination on fire.

There is intense speculation in Bengal about the probable political rise of a yogi, Swami Kripakarananda Maharaj of Ramakrishna Mission. Hindutva insider groups have already started describing him as the future chief minister of Bengal. It could be a startlingly game-altering move if — and it is a very big if — the BJP leadership can convince him to join politics and be at the forefront of the party’s most crucial clash ahead in 2021, the Battle of Bengal.

A caveat: The Ramakrishna Mission is extremely shy of politics, and in a past interview, Kripakarananda Maharaj himself said he had no such plans.

But politics is the art of the possible, and one wonders if under such thick smoke there isn’t even a bed of smouldering twigs.

Who is Kripakarananda Maharaj?

His is a story for the novels. Reports say Debatosh Chakravorty ranked 5th secondary school (Class 10) exams and 7th higher secondary (Class 12) in entire Bengal. He then ranked 17th in medical joint entrance and joined NRS Medical College. He then did his MD from AIIMS in Delhi, and went for heart research in the US.

After his research days in America, Debotosh disappeared, according to a social media post by his roommate from his NRS days.

After a few years, a young sadhu named Kripakarananda appeared in Belur Math and took charge of the health wing, Arogya Bhavan. He is none other than Debotosh.

Besides being a skilled doctor and compelling orator, he is a surprisingly accomplished classical musician and singer.

Why Swami would be an astute choice

Less than a year from its do-or-die battle in Bengal, the BJP does not have a credible face to take on Mamata Banerjee’s mass appeal. Sourav Ganguly’s name does the rounds, but despite his tremendous popularity, he is ideologically untested in the violent and tumultuous political waters of the state.

State chief Dilip Ghosh is a gritty street fighter and organisation man, but educated Bengalis dislike his coarseness. You can’t do a Mamata on Mamata.

Mukul Roy, despite being a prolific organiser and TMC team-breaker, has a corruption taint and is not fully trusted by core Hindutva leadership and cadre.

If the BJP manages to spring the unknown weapon named Kripakarananda, it could be a stroke of genius.

Swami-ji will hold out an immediate and unbridled appeal to the Hindutva rank and file in the highly polarised border state.

Another person to watch in this space is Kartik Maharaj of Bharat Sevashram Sangha, a fiery speaker against Islamism and minority appeasement in the state.

But while Kartik Maharaj is abrasive and holds greater appeal in the turbulent Bengal hinterland, Kripakarananda will be an instant hit in Bengali Hindu, educated middle-class homes, where Ramakrishna Paramhans and Swami Vivekananda’s photos mandatorily adorn the walls. His intellect, education, artistic prowess and presumed incorruptibility are in stark contrast with the image of the incumbent TMC regime.

In a state used to distinguished, bhadralok chief ministers like Bidhan Chandra Roy, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Kripakarananda will have no problem of pedigree.

The big question: Will he agree?

Ramakrishna Mission is known to be reticent towards politics to the point of being touchy. Kripakarananda himself ruled out a political future for himself.

However, the initial response among party supporters has been that of amazement and extremely welcoming.

There is also the possibility that it is one of RSS’s secret project of grooming leaders far away from public glare and foisting them on the polity at the right time. Sangh seniors privately say leaders are being groomed for the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years; men and women we do not even know about right now.

Kripakarananda Maharaj could be one of them. Or he could be a flash of collective yearning and imagination; a passing chimaera and nothing more. Only the future will tell.

Views expressed are personal

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