Gujarat BJP president C.R. Paatil, along with party MLAs and office bearers, attended a function of Dhirendra Shastri of Bageshwar Dham Sarkar on Friday night, even as the opposition Congress has continued to oppose the self-styled “Godman” and his speeches.
Shastri, who has courted multiple controversies over his speeches, is in Gujarat for a few days, and has programmes in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot.
The BJP on Saturday issued a press release and photographs of Paatil at an event in Surat on Friday late evening. He was accompanied by minister of state for forest and environment Mukesh Patel, MLA Sangita Patil, Surat BJP president Niranjan Jhazhmera and party general secretaries from the diamond city.
On Saturday, despite heavy police bandobast and the security provided to the preacher, there was a near stampede-like situation as people thronged to have a glimpse of him and take pictures. Security officials had a difficult time keeping people and media away from getting near Shastri.
Earlier in Surat, Shastri had said that he is not in any party except for “Bajrang Bali’s party”. Seeing the sea of humanity, he said in Gujarati, “Pagalo kem cho (Crazy people, how are you)?”
The Congress has been criticizing the state patronage given to Shastri. Speaking to THE WEEK, Gujarat Congress leader Manhar Patel asked how the state could support a person who has been speaking against the Constitution of the country. Patel held that Shastri talks about a “Hindu Rashtra” that India is not. He is misguiding people, he further alleged.
The Congress leader also alleged that Shastri was, in his speeches, trying to look down upon the lower rung of the society.
Jayant Pandya of Vigyan Jatha, an organisation promoting scientific awareness, has challenged Shastri to prove his claims of miracles. Pandya has told him that during a programme in Rajkot, members of his organization will be present at the venue and he (Shastri) should identify them. Vigyan Jatha has also written to the state government to cancel the permission for Bageshwar Dham Sarkar’s function in Rajkot.