Mumbai: In an incident that sent shock waves across political and social circles in the country, influential and politically connected “spiritual" guru Bhayyuji Maharaj, originally named Udaysinh Deshmukh, died in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, on Tuesday afternoon after reportedly shooting himself at his residence with a licenced revolver.

Bhayyuji Maharaj, 50, was rushed to Bombay Hospital in Indore where he was declared dead around 2.40pm.

Bhayyuji Maharaj is survived by his wife Ayushi, who he married in April 2017 after his first wife died in 2016, and a daughter who attends a college in Pune.

According to people who knew him well, Bhayyuji Maharaj was “sad about the frequent personal attacks on him on social media after his second marriage last year". He last tweeted the “Mahamrityunjay Mantra" at 1.40pm wishing his followers on “Masik Shivratri".

The spiritual guru, who was close to leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the work of whose ashram in the education and water conservation sector spanned the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, left a suicide note in English, according to local news channels in Madhya Pradesh. Mint could not independently confirm this.

The news channels reported that in the signed suicide note, Bhayyuji Maharaj asked “somebody should be there to handle duties of family. I am leaving so much stressed out, fed up". In April this year, Bhayyuji Maharaj was one of the five ‘religious leaders’ who were given the status of ministers of state by the BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh.

Maharashta chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in a condolence message said the nation had lost a “personality dedicated to serve the society and which had made valuable social and spiritual contributions". “Through his Suryoday Parivar, Bhayyuji Maharaj was the driving force behind social initiatives like water conservation, land reforms, education, and mass marriages. His role in getting thousands of hectares under irrigation in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh would always be remembered," Fadnavis said in his condolence message.

Born on 29 April 1968, into an influential Maratha family in Madhya Pradesh’s Shujalpur, Udaysinh Deshmukh set up the Suryoday Ashram in Indore in 1996. Soon his followers included influential leaders from the Congress, the BJP, and the NCP including the late Vilasrao Deshmukh and BJP leader Nitin Gadkari besides a host of politicians.

Bhayyuji Maharaj played an instrumental role in 2011 to persuade veteran anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare to end his fast. He was also one of the key interlocutors between the Maratha community, to which he belonged, and the Maharashtrra government during the Maratha agitation in 2016-17 when the community demanded quota. A string of politicians from across political parties gave their condolence messages to news channels after the news about Bhayyuji Maharaj’s suicide went viral.

Anil Galgali, a Mumbai-based RTI activist who has known Bhayyuji Maharaj for six years and was in touch with the spiritual guru till last month, said that Bhayyuji Maharaj would frequently refer to the “viciously personal social media attacks on him after his second marriage".

“He was very bitter about it and would often talk about it. Last month when I met him during his Mumbai visit, he again referred to it. It is very shocking to know that a person who helped others come out of depression has become a victim of depression himself," Galgali said.

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