The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh accorded the `Minister of State' (MoS) status to five Hindu religious leaders ahead of the assembly elections, a move which was slammed by opposition Congress.
As per the order of General Administration Department's Additional Secretary K K Katiya, the MoS status has been accorded to Narmadanand Maharaj, Hariharanand Maharaj, Computer Baba, Bhayyu Maharaj and Pandit Yogendra Mahant.
On March 31, these five religious leaders were appointed to a committee set up for the conservation of the Narmada river. As members of the committee, they have been given the MoS status.
Assembly elections are due in the state this year, and main opposition Congress dubbed the decision as an attempt by the BJP to exploit the respect these religious leaders enjoy in the society.
A day after being accorded the 'Minister of State' (MoS) status, two religious leaders cancelled their proposed campaign against the alleged 'scam'
in the Madhya Pradesh government's Narmada conservation programme.
Meet the five religious leaders granted MoS status:
# Computer Baba: One of the religious leaders who have been granted MoS status, is Swami Namdev Tyagi, who is more popularly referred as Computer Baba. He claims to have a computer-like brain with sharp memory. The baba keeps himself updated with latest technology, gadgets, mobile phones, and is mostly seen with a laptop.
He made headlines in 2013 when he urged Kumbh Mela authorities to allow him to arrive in a helicopter and take a dip in the river.
Interestingly, Computer Baba had earlier announced to take out the 'Narmada Ghotala Rath Yatra' along with Yogendra Mahant in every district of MP from April 1 to May 15, to expose the alleged scam in planting saplings on the banks of the Narmada river and to demand a ban on illegal sand mining. The publicity material of the campaign was also circulated widely on the social media.
However, MoS Computer Baba on Wednesday said they have cancelled the campaign because the state government has fulfilled their demand to form a committee of saints and seers for protection of the Narmada river. "Now why would we take out the yatra?" he said.
On accepting the government facilities meant for an MoS despite being a saint, he said, "If we do not get the post and other government facilities, how can we work for the protection of the Narmada."
"As a member of the committee, we have to talk to the district collectors and look after other necessary arrangements for the river's conservation. A government status is required for these works," he pointed out.
# Bhaiyyu Maharaj: This religious leader's real name is Udaysingh Deshmukh, who is known for his extravagant lifestyle. Many do not know that Bhaiyyu Maharaj, a zamindar's son, is a former model. He is believed to have a wide following among politicians and businessmen, and operates from a sprawling ashram in Indore.
Upsetting many of his disciples, the 'saint' had married an Indore-based medical practitioner. He is also learnt to have played role of a mediator in persuading Anna Hazare to call off his Lokpal fast in 2011.
# Hariharanandji: Among the core group of 50 people who led the Namami Devi Narmade Sewa Yatra, Hariharanandji conducted workshops and public meetings on afforestation, sanitation, soil and water conservation, pollution control measures and promotion of organic farming during the 144-day journey on foot.
Namami Devi Narmade Sewa Yatra, that started on December 11 in the year 2016 and concluded on May 11 in 2017, was the world’s largest river conservation campaign in terms of sheer scale.
# Pt Yogendra Mahant: Pandit Yogendra Mahant has convened a rath yatra from May 1 to May 15 in 45 districts. The religious leader had earlier said that the yatra would expose the state government for spending crores of rupees for plantation in the name of Narmada hariyali project.
Yogendra Mahant, who was the convener of the proposed campaign, on Wednesday said that they cancelled the yatra as the state government fulfilled their demand to set up a panel for the river conservation.
# Narmadanandji: Believed to be a revered spiritual guru in Madhya Pradesh, Narmadanandji Maharaj organises yatras during Hanuman Jayanti and Ram Navami.
He held several shobha yatras and other events in differents parts of the state last year. He is also associated with the Hanuman Janmotsava Samiti and Sanatan Dharma Mahasabha.
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