Who will succeed Sai Baba?
Will Sathya Sai Baba make it is the big question that each and every devotee of his is asking. There is anger and anxiety at both ashrams at Puttaparthi and Whitefield and the devotees ask if the doctors claim that he is fine, then what prevents them from showing a photograph or a video of Sai Baba. However the doctors have refused any such request saying shooting pictures in an ICU is gross violation of human rights.
The question now is however regarding the succession of Baba who is the Chairman of a trust which has assets close to Rs 40000 crore. Minutes after the news of Baba’s failing health broke out, the Andhra Pradesh government rushed a team to discuss the issue of succession. However this team which is in Puttaparthi have not received exactly a warm reception from the members of the trust who feel that the Andhra Pradesh government should not be running the ashram and the assets attached to it.
The AP government did feel the heat of the resentment from the trustees and was quick to deny any take over of the ashram. N Raghuveera Reddy, revenue minister of the state says on record that there is no decision to take over the trust. The government would not be taking it over, but would oversee a smooth transition. While none of the other members sent by the AP government are acceptable to the trustees, they would however make their peace with one of the members, L V Subramanyam who is the principal secretary finance (government of Andhra Pradesh). The government has said that Subramanyam would be staying back there since he is a more acceptable face for the trustees and the devotees at Puttaparthi ashram. Subramanyam is not only an ardent devotee of the Baba, but has also done his education at the Sai Baba institution in Puttaparthi.
Sources informed that no information from the hospital would be forthcoming unless and until a succession plan is put in place. There is a lot at stake at the moment and the devotees who continue to spend anxious moments at the ashrams too will have a lot of questions to ask. Even if the trustees come to any conclusion the successor to the trust would have to be someone acceptable to the devotees who are spread over across the world. The trust has properties in Puutaparthi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, the USA and is all worth over Rs 40000 crore.
As of now there are two names which come up when issues of succession are being spoken about. There is Ratnakar Raju who is Baba’s nephew and also Chakravarthi, both who are members of the trust. Baba’s family which has a say in the affairs of the trust continue to back Ratnakar. However Chakravarthi who is a retired IAS officer has the support of the majority of the trust members. During the discussions on this issue, the debate was whether the head of the trust should be succeeded by a member of the family or elected in a democratic manner. A majority of the trustees feel that a democratic process should be in place which would mean that Chakravarthi would have the edge over Ratnakar. However the other issue is that the devotees would be more inclined towards a member of the family.
While Chakravarthi enjoys the support of the trustees, the devotees have an axe to grind against him. There have been complaints that he kept Baba away from the common man and once he took over as the secretary of the Satya Sai Central Trust. In addition to this he has had a battle with the members of the Sai Baba family. When Sai Baba’s brother Janakiram was alive and a member of the trust he interacted a lot with the villagers around Puttaparthi and often took them directly to Baba in order to solve their problems. However after the death of Janakiram, Chakravarthi became the more powerful member in the trust and imposed a lot of restrictions on the devotees. This is exactly what the devotees are angry about today and say even today Chakravarthi continues to isolate Baba and it is on his instructions that information regarding the health of the God man is being kept a secret.
Sources in the ashram however point out that Baba has not named any successor. Prophecy has it that Baba would leave his body at the age of 96 and would be reincarnated as Prema Sai Baba who would be born in a small village near Mandya in Karnataka. This was mentioned by Baba himself during a discourse in the year 2003. However Baba has not identified Prema Sai Baba.