BHOPAL: On other days Digvijaya Singh is among staunchest critics of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Union home minister Amit Shah, but on Thursday he revealed how Shah as well as RSS workers had helped him during his `Narmada Parikrama’ four years ago.
The senior Congress leader and his journalist wife Amrita had undertaken the arduous journey on foot or `Parikrama’ along the banks of the river Narmada in 2017.
“Once, we reached our destination in Gujarat around 10 at night. There was no way ahead through the forested area and there was no facility for overnight stay,” Singh said, speaking during the launch of “Narmada Ke Pathik”, a book penned by his long-time associate O P Sharma.
“A forest officer arrived, and you will be surprised to know that he told me that Amit Shah had directed him to fully cooperate with us,” Singh told the audience.
“Elections were going on (in Gujarat), Digvijaya is their biggest critic, but he (Shah) ensured that there should not be any problem during our yatra. They found way for us through the mountains and also arranged food for all of us,” the Congress veteran said.
Singh had started the over 3000 km-long journey which lasted six months from Barman Ghat in Narsinghpur district on September 30, 2017.
“Till today I have not met Shah, but I expressed my gratitude to him through proper channels,” he added.
This was an example of “political coordination, adjustment and friendship which has nothing to do with politics and ideology,” the Congress veteran said.
Though he is a strong critic of the RSS, its workers kept meeting him during the yatra, Singh said.
“I asked them why they were taking so much trouble, they told me that they had orders to meet me,” he said.
When he was passing through Bharuch region, RSS workers arranged the stay for his group at a Manjhi Samaj Dharamshala one day and the hall where they were put up had photos of RSS stalwarts Keshav Baliram Hedgewar and Madhavrao Sadashivrao Golwalkar on the walls, the Congress leader recounted.
Singh said he was mentioning all this to let people know that religion and politics are different, and he had “taken help from all” during his pilgrimage.
A leader of the BJP’s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and three other BJP workers were part of his group, and they are now inseparable part of his ‘Narmada family”, the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said.
Singh also recounted that late spiritual leader Daddaji had directed his follower and actor Ashutosh Rana to make arrangements for `bhandara’ (community feast) at Barman Ghat.
A few spiritual leaders and former Union ministers Suresh Pachouri and Kantilal Bhuria also spoke at the book launch function.
Singh’s wife Amrita too recounted her experiences and stressed the need to conserve the environment along the river.
Shivna Prakashan, the publisher, announced that five per cent of sales proceeds will be earmarked for the conservation of the Narmada.