Even as questions are being raised about the credibility of reports on spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba’s health, the question, ‘Who after Baba?’ is being seen as the raison d’etre for all the mystery and secrecy over Baba’s real condition.
A five-member team of Andhra Pradesh government, headed by principal secretary, health department, BV Ramesh, has been constituted to work out a smooth transfer of reins of the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Trust in the event of 85-year-old godman’s demise.
According to sources, “It is this tussle for succession that is driving the government and the trustees to keep Baba out of the public glare. The trust has huge properties at Puttaparthi in Ananthapur district, Andhra Pradesh, and in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai. It also has property in several countries, including USA, and property alone is estimated to be worth over Rs40,000 crore. The trust is running numerous schools, colleges and two super-specialty hospitals, apart from implementing drinking water schemes in several places, including Ananthapur.”
Baba’s nephew RJ Ratnakara Raju, one of the trustees, is being touted as the front runner to head the trust. But the issue is not simple, as there is now debate on whether the new head, in the event of Baba’s demise, should be chosen in a democratic manner or be one from Baba’s family.
Retired IAS officer Chakravarthi reportedly enjoys the confidence of many members, and could head the trust. Meanwhile, Puttaparthi is agog with reports of the Andhra Pradesh government trying to take over the trust, to manage the institutions of the Baba.
The five-member team of the AP government, which is camping in Puttaparthi, is in constant touch with trustees and members of Baba’s family. It has already started examining the flow of donations for the trust and whether funds are being managed properly.
Earlier, devotees heeded a prophecy that Baba would attain his heavenly abode only at the age of 96. Baba’s next reincarnation, according to that prophecy, would occur in Mandya district. Devotees see Baba’s reincarnation as the natural successor to Baba. But for that kind of succession, devotees expect to have to wait at least three decades. In the meanwhile, it is expected that the 85-year-old Baba would continue to bless his followers for at least another 11 years.