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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Meet Shantigiriji Maharaj, the swami who wants to purify politics

Updated on: 11 May,2024 07:27 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rajendra B. Aklekar |

Spiritual leader Swami Shantigiriji Maharaj, 64, has single-handedly rattled all comers

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Meet Shantigiriji Maharaj, the swami who wants to purify politics

Shantigiri Maharaj leaving for a campaign from his ashram. Shantigiri Maharaj also known as Mauni Baba is contesting from the Nashik Lok Sabha seat as an independent candidate. Pics/Ashish Raje

The 64-year-old spiritual leader Swami Shantigiriji Maharaj has caused quite a stir in the Nashik Lok Sabha constituency and among politicians. Despite requests from senior BJP leaders to withdraw his nomination, Swamiji remained firm in his decision to contest the election. He aims to “purify politics” and has taken matters into his own hands after being denied a ticket despite meeting Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. Now, he’s running as an independent candidate with the election symbol ‘bucket’.

Swamiji's candidacy has raised concerns about its impact on the election outcome, given his past success in securing votes. With assets worth over R38 crore and a dedicated following of 1.8 lakh devotees known as Jai Babaji Pariwar in Nashik, Swami Shantigiri Maharaj’s influence extends far and wide. Despite being a spiritual leader, he’s actively engaged in politics, as seen during his recent stop at his ashram in Khopadi Budruk, where he addressed a rally organised by his supporters. mid-day caught up with Swamiji during a brief halt at his ashram in Khopadi Budruk, a village in the interiors of Sinnar where his follower-sourced rally had been on. 


What is the exact reason for contesting elections?
The standard of politics today is at an all-time low, and when the political power fails, it is the religious power that needs to rise. I am a representative of that. The Parliament is like a temple of democracy, and only good people should go there. It is “like king, like people,” meaning that leaders should set an example of good qualities, follow virtue, and work for the welfare of their subjects. If the head of the house is not good enough, the family suffers.

You were expecting a ticket from Mahayuti, but they ditched you at the last minute.
Yes, our followers have worked for the party, and it is but natural to have expectations, but in the end, it is their choice. But so be it. We are working for the national interest and not against anyone or any party. The idea is to purify politics.

Everyone has asked you to withdraw. But you have remained firm on your stand.
Yes, our followers always wanted me to contest this time. It was already decided that I would go ahead and contest the elections and win whether any party gave me a ticket or not.

You have been known as mauni baba, the silent ascetic. How will you handle the Parliament and the people?
Let me clear the air. The oath of silence (maun) was between 1998 to 2006 for nine years as a part of a vow. Now there is no silence period.

Shantigiri Maharaj also known as Mauni Baba is contesting from the Nashik Lok Sabha seat as an independent candidate. Pics/ASHISH RAJE
Shantigiri Maharaj also known as Mauni Baba is contesting from the Nashik Lok Sabha seat as an independent candidate. Pics/ASHISH RAJE

You have declared assets worth crores of rupees, which is a bit too much for a spiritual leader or an ascetic.
If you read the details carefully, the assets in question are more in landform. Followers have gifted me land and properties which we are in the process of transferring to a trust. My followers believe in me so much that they donate in my name. The process of making the trust has been on when the elections were announced. We have sincerely declared in the public domain all that we have and have not tried to hide anything.

What are your ideas, and priorities for the constituency? Your agenda as an MP.
 I have been moving from village to village in the interiors of the Nashik constituency, speaking to people and discussed with people about their problems. There are issues of irrigation and water, education and housing which will be my priority.

Practically, how will you strike a chord with the electorate?
As I said, I have been interacting with hundreds of villagers. I ask them one question: do they want money or the development and growth? The answer is growth of the village. I have also struck a chord among women voters. I appealed to them and asked whether they wanted a candidate who would distribute bottles of alcohol and encourage alcoholism or one who would encourage one to leave alcohol. Women and housewives in the villages obviously opted for the latter and assured they would vote for me in large numbers.

One final question. As a spiritual leader and ascetic, people deify you and touch your feet. Now in the temple of democracy, you have to touch people’s feet as you will be a public servant and a people’s representative.
A very good question. The people are God’s children. Janata is our Janardhan. (People are our God) and hence I go to every village and doorstep and touch their feet. God’s message is to find God in average people and even otherwise we have been going in public with folded hands and greeting them.

SWOT analysis Swami Shantigiri

Has a good network and a solid fan base of his Jai Babaji Pariwar. He got around 1.8 lakh votes in the last LS elections he contested, proving a challenge to others.

Religious perspective of things. Will face problems while dealing with bureaucracy and working technicalities at the Parliament.

Political rivals fear him as he will eat into the saffron votes of both alliances, MVA and MahaYuti. Will prove to be crucial after results are declared.

Was being followed up by top BJP leaders to withdraw the nomination, but did not withdraw. He is confident of the win but will prove to be a threat to others. 

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