JABALPUR (TIP): The 86-year-old Shankaracharya of Dwarka, Swaroopanand Saraswati, known for his antipathy for Narendra Modi and immediacy with the Gandhi family, leaned across and slapped a reporter before the latter had the time to react after he asked what he thought was an innocuous question: the prospects of Modi becoming PM.
The slap reverberated through the day with the seer’s men smelling a saffron conspiracy. But fawning Congressmen said the journalist should consider himself lucky for being singled out for such unique attention. Swami Swaroopanand himself was frank enough to tell reporters on Thursday that he indeed hit the journalist because, “despite knowing my reservations, the man persistently quizzed me on political issues”.
It’s the prerogative of MPs to choose the PM and he had nothing against Modi, the Shankaracharya said. However, later in the day, there was a volte face by the Shankaracharya’s office, with a spokesperson denying his slapping the reporter and reiterating a saffron conspiracy. Swami Shubuddhanand said, “The journalist was drunk and inched closer to Maharaj-ji while asking questions.
He also tried to nudge him,” he said. Shubuddhanand said there might have been a conspiracy by a former BJP minister to malign the Jagadguru. “This man had sent the reporter to provoke Maharaj-ji,” she said. A BJP MP, not wanting to be named, said, “Swamiji has made his choice clear and his gesture shows how disturbed he is by the rise of Modi.” Madhya Pradesh BJP media cell chief Hitesh Vajpayee said, “The incident is shocking. We’re surprised by his reaction.”
Congressmen played down the fracas. “The Jagadguru is the flagbearer of Hindu religion,” said NK Prajapati of Congress. “One should take his slap as a blessing. It will be a guiding light for the journalist,” he said. Last year in November, Swami Swaroopanand had hit the headlines after he presided over the unveiling ceremony of the Virat Ramayan temple by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who had been decrying Modi’s brand of Hindutva and had the seer at the inauguration of his ambitious “Hindu project”.