Bangalore: With the completion of Sathya Sai Baba's burial ceremony, the big question that everyone is asking now is whether it will indeed be, as speculated, Devotee versus Blood in the battle for succession.
Word has it around Puttaparthi that 33-year-old Sathyajit, Sathya Sai Baba's ardent devotee, caretaker and personal assistant, would succeed the godman. However, he has been pitted against Baba's nephew R J Rathnakar, who joined the trust last year.
While the internal battle continues, it comes as a shocker for many who noticed that Baba's ardent devotee, who has always been beside the godman even till the guru breathed his last, was not present during the last rites ceremony.
"The last rites were supposed to be conducted only by family members," argues an ashram official. But when questioned further on why Sathyajit was not present at the ceremony, the official denied his absence and walked away.
Many speculate that Baba's family objected to Sathyajit's as heir, and because of this long existing cold war, he gave the event a miss. Others however, simply couldn't believe that he was nowhere to be seen throughout the ceremony.
Another ashram official, overseeing the VVIP section believes that he was somewhere around and was trying to maintain a low profile as instructed by the state government. While both arguments hold strong ground, shutterbugs couldn't even get a glimpse of the man.
Meanwhile ashram officials were as surprised as the media, about whether it indeed was a blink and miss scenario with Sathyajit as was being portrayed, or whether he was actually absent during the entire event.
CHOSEN BY BABA
The rumour about Sathyajit taking over caught fresh fire when trustee and former Chief Justice of India P N Bhagwati indicated that he would support Sathyajit in the internal power battle.
Adds the source, "Some of the trustees like Bhagwati support Sathyajit because Baba appreciated the selfless devotion, with which his ardent devotee served him. In fact, in one of his discourses last year, Baba indicated that Sathyajit should inherit his legacy."
The state government has washed its hands of the issue and left the decision on the trust members.
The trustees held a 15-minute closed door meeting with the PM and Sonia Gandhi who had come down to Puttaparthi to pay their last respects on Tuesday.
While questions about why Sathyajit hasn't spoken out against the allegations made against him reverberate in the crowded town, it remains to be seen if Puttaparthi's famous ashram will truly get a new spiritual successor in the next few days.