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Puttaparthi: As Sai Baba remains critical, succession war hots up

Last updated on: April 22, 2011 09:09 IST

As Puttaparthi continues to be on tensed over the deteriorating health of Sathya Sai Baba, the names of his caregiver, Satyajit and his nephew R J Ratnakar are emerging as possible persons who may have a bigger say in the Satya Sai Baba Central Trust, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

Even as Satya Sai Baba continues to be very critical, the succession war at Puttaparthi to control the Rs 40,000 crore Satya Sai Baba Central Trust has already begun. The names doing the rounds to head the trust are that of Sai Baba's personal caregiver 33-year-old Satyajit, who has been serving in the ashram since the age of five, and his nephew Ratnakar.

Although the members of the trust wanted greater control in the affairs of the ashram and the trust, it is unlikely that there may be any opposition to Satyajit. This is largely due to the fact that a year ago Sai Baba had indicated that his caregiver should assume a bigger role.

33-year-old Satyajit, who completed his education from institutions run by trust, later went on to pursue an MBA Satya Sai Institute of Higher Learning only to emerge as the topper. Soon after, he promised to serve at the ashram for his entire life.

During his stay at the ashram, Satyajit gained Sai Baba's confidence and gradually rose to becoming his personal caregiver in 2002. Satyajit enjoys a very powerful position in the trust. In addition to this, he also shares a good rapport with Chakravarthi and R Srinivasan -- two key members of the central trust at Puttaparthi.

Sai Baba's nephew Ratnakar, 39, is also emerging as a favourite to head the trust. For years, members of the family have tried to make a position for themselves at the trust, but Sai Baba has always kept them at bay. The only family member who was part of the trust was Baba's brother and Ratnakar's father Janakiram. However, even during Janakiram's tenure at the trust he faced problems with the trustees.

The devotees had, however, vouched for Janakiram and said that he encouraged Sai Baba to interact with the poor while the rest of the trust isolated them. However, the trustees alleged that Janakiram was only furthering a political career since he happened to be the vice president of the Ananthpur Congress Committee.
However, the new possible entrants into the trust -- Ratnakar and Satyajit -- have had no political affiliations and are extremely close to the godman.  

The tussle for the control over the trust has always been a sensitive issue in Puttaparthi. The trustees had always refused to relinquish control to the members of the family. However, there was extreme pressure from the devotees of Sai Baba who always wanted a greater role for his kin. And if devotees have a say in the matter, then Ratnakar who controls the cable TV transmission in Puttaparthi and is a dealer of a Hindustan Petroleum petrol pump could emerge as the head.

Both members of the family, representatives of the Andhra Pradesh government and the members of the trust are engaged in talks on succession. During their meetings, it was decided that transition should be smooth and they agreed not to air any adverse comment against one another and maintain public decorum.

Meanwhile, the Sai Baba's medical condition continues to remain critical. Doctors are working round the clock hoping his health shows improvement.   

Vicky Nanjappa