Bhopal: Months before the Assembly elections due this year, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh accorded the Minister of State (MoS) status to five Hindu religious leaders or ‘saints’ on Tuesday, a move which was slammed by opposition Congress. As per the order of General Administration Department’s Additional Secretary KK Katiya, the MoS status has been accorded to Narmadanand Maharaj, Hariharanand Maharaj, Computer Baba, Bhayyu Maharaj and Pandit Yogendra Mahant.
Computer Baba had earlier announced to take out a ‘Narmada Ghotala Rath Yatra’ along with Yogendra Mahant in every district of the State between 1 April and 15 May 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 said on Wednesday they have cancelled the campaign because the State government had 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 asked.
On 31 March, 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, a GAD official said.
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.
“It’s a gimmick to score political points. This is also an effort by the chief minister (Shivraj Singh Chouhan) to wash off his sins. He ignored conservation of the Narmada. These saints should inspect where the State government has planted six crore saplings (on the river banks) as claimed by the chief minister,” said Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi.
State BJP spokesperson Rajnish Agrawal said the opposition party disliked anything related to saints.
“Saints and seers were accorded the MoS status to make their work of environment and river conservation easy. The saints were roped in for the Narmada conservation work to ensure public participation,” Agrawal said.