Rahul+Kedarnath= Earthquake! With friends like Sakshi does Modi need enemies?

Sakshi Maharaj has blamed Rahul Gandhi’s Kedarnath yatra for the Nepal earthquake. Whether he made the remarks in sardonic jest or in all seriousness, Maharaj was displaying classic troll behavior – no matter what the event, no matter how unrelated, find a way to tie it to your opposition leader and flog your pet cause.

Sandip Roy April 29, 2015 07:35:29 IST
Rahul+Kedarnath= Earthquake! With friends like Sakshi does Modi need enemies?

Sakshi Maharaj is just made to order for today’s news cycle – where the more outrageous you are , the more TRPs you garner. He can be relied on to outdo himself when it comes to ratcheting up the shock factor.

Not content with advising Hindus to produce four children apiece and praising Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, now Sakshi Maharaj has apparently blamed Rahul Gandhi’s Kedarnath yatra for the Nepal earthquake.

RahulKedarnath Earthquake With friends like Sakshi does Modi need enemies

Sakshi Maharaj. PTI image

“Rahul Gandhi eats beef, and goes to the holy shrine (Kedarnath) without purifying himself. The earthquake was bound to happen,” Maharaj told reporters in Haridwar says the Times of India. Present on the occasion was VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi who according to The Tribune said Rahul’s Kedarnath’s pilgrimage was an “ill omen.” The last time he had visited Uttarakhand there had been a flash flood, this time an earthquake. “This is due to the visit of Rahul Gandhi, who is non-vegetarian,” Sadhvi Prachi allegedly told a gathering of religious leaders.

Rahul Gandhi might eat beef or he might not eat beef. But that is not Sakshi Maharaj’s or Sadhvi Prachi’s business. Whether he made the remarks in sardonic jest or in all seriousness, Maharaj was displaying classic troll behavior – no matter what the event, no matter how unrelated, find a way to tie it to your opposition leader and flog your pet cause.

In Sakshi Maharaj’s case it was a twofer - the sacred cow and his beef with Rahul Gandhi.

It’s a strange and whimsical God that punishes hapless people in Nepal for the alleged transgressions of Rahul Gandhi in Kedarnath but logic never stands in the way of those who want to shamelessly use an earthquake as their bully pulpit for a little bonus PR.

Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Prachi are hardly unique in this regard. The Advocate listed many religious leaders who are prone to read signs into all calamities as if they are Delphic oracles.

American preacher Pat Robertson blamed the 6.7 Northridge earthquake in California on “God’s displeasure with gays and lesbians, pro-choice activists and perversity.” Orthodox rabbi Yehuda Levin blamed the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti on the island’s high HIV rates. After the 9/11 attack, American preacher Jerry Falwell said “pagans and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle” were among those who “helped this happen.”

God sometimes does have the last laugh. Robertson once blamed the approaching Hurricane Bonnie in Florida on Disney launching Gay Day in Disney World. But the hurricane suddenly veered away, gave Florida a miss and battered the east coast instead. One of the places hardest hit was the headquarters of Robertson’s own 700 Club in Virginia.

But that has not shut up Robertson and his ilk. Sakshi Maharaj merely follows in that grand tradition.

The difference, however, is Maharaj is a BJP MP, elected and accountable, a representative of the people in the way the wild and woolly Robertsons are not. The fulminations of an American televangelist can be dismissed as wild-eyed ranting of deluded PR-hungry self-styled godmen. And they are the bosses of their little religious empires and can decide the earth is flat if they want. With Sakshi Maharaj however this is our tax rupees at work. He is the representative of a party and supposedly answerable to its leadership. And the more the likes of him get away with outrageous statements, the more they sully their own party.

Sakshi Maharaj, of course, is a fine one to be pointing fingers at anyone. He was booked in 2013 along with his brother and two others for the murder of a college principal in UP who was his former disciple and involved in a property dispute with him. He was expelled from the Rajya Sabha for misusing constituency funds, is an accused in the Babri Masjid demolition and spent a month in Tihar jail on rape charges. He was acquitted for lack of evidence but his career has been a colourful one as he built himself an empire of ashrams.

It’s not that the BJP is entirely unaware of the damage caused by its un-reined motormouths. The BJP did issue a show-cause notice to Sakshi Maharaj but he remained disdainfully defiant saying he had not got any notice.

In a recent interview with the Indian Express, BJP minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy was asked about the party’s other motormouth, his fellow minister Giriraj Singh.

“Giriraj is not fit for the scheme of things at the national level,” Rudy replied. “He absolutely should refrain from making any national statement. We absolutely do not endorse it. But in Lalu’s land, I think he is the right voice.”

That’s a rather damning indictment of Bihar but it also betrays the helplessness of a party that wants to put forward a clean-cut development face but is saddled with the likes of loose cannons like Giriraj Singh and Sakshi Maharaj who collectively can do it more harm than anything Rahul Gandhi can dream up.

The RSS, usually in the news these days for stories about ghar wapisi and political meddling and text book tinkering, is gearing up to do something it is very competent at – humanitarian service during a natural disaster. That sets it clearly apart from groups like those of US pastor Tony Miano who are fishing for conversions in the middle of the debris. He hoped that not a “ single destroyed pagan temple will be rebuilt & the people will repent/receive Christ”. The last thing the RSS needed right now were Hindu swamis and saints hijacking the conversation with their self-serving cock-eyed theories.

Even worse at a time when the Modi government is winning praise from all sides for its prompt and generous response to the earthquake, Sakshi Maharaj provides the Congress with an excuse to cry foul.

With friends like these does Narendra Modi need enemies?

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