With less than a year before Madhya Pradesh goes to assembly polls, BJP government has accorded Minister of State status to five Hindu religious leaders, triggering a row. The opposition Congress has termed the decision as a political gimmick. All the five Sadhus have been identified as Computer Baba, Bhaiyyuji Maharaj, Narmadanandji, Hariharanandji and Pt Yogendra Mahant. Before according them the MoS status, the government appointed them to a committee that was set up to create awareness about aforestation, cleanliness along the Narmada river and water conservation.
As a MoS, all five will enjoy the perks equivalent to a state minister. While the Congress has accused the government of trying to exploit religious appeal of these saints, the BJP said that the decision will increase public participation on conserving the river. “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,” state BJP spokesperson Rajnish Agrawal said.
Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh are slated to be held later this year. While the BJP is facing anti-incumbency, the Congress is desperate to return to the power at any cost. If the Congress manages to snatch the power from the saffron party, it will be a big boost to the morale of the Grand Old Party workers who have tasted mostly defeats since 2014 general elections.
Here’s all you need to know about the five new MoS:
Swami Namdev Tyagi alias Computer Baba: The self-proclaimed modern ascetic is always seen with a laptop in hand and all the latest gadgets including mobile phones and dongles. He claims to have a very sharp memory and a computer-like brain. The baba made it to the headlines in 2013 when he sought permission from the Kumbh Mela authorities to allow him to arrive in a helicopter. What is more interesting about Computer baba is that he had announced to undertake a 15-day long ‘Narmada scam yatra’ but he junked his plan without giving a proper explanation.
After the MP government conferred ministerial rank on him, the Computer baba thanked the state government for showing faith in the sadhu community. “We will try our best to work for welfare of the society,” news agency ANI quoted him as saying.
Bhaiyyu Maharaj: His real name is Udaysingh Deshmukh. He is known for maintaining a lavish lifestyle. Dressed elegantly, he operates from an ashram in Indore and travels in a white Mercedes SUV. A zamindar’s son, Bhaiyyu Maharaj had tried his luck in modelling as well. He also has good relations with politicians and businessmen.His website mentions that Yuva Rastra Saint Shri Sadguru Bhaiyyuji Maharaj is a spiritual leader, social reformer and motivator. His sole aim is to bring happiness on the faces of poor. He is married to a medical practitioner.
Hariharanandji: He is known for leading the Namami Devi Sewa Yatra, world’s largest river conservation campaign. He was among the core group of 50 people who were leading the yatra. The campaign started on December 11, 2016 and culminated on May 11, 2017. During his yatra, Hariharanandji conducted numbers of workshops and held public meetings to spread awareness among people about afforestation, organic farming, sanitation, soil and water conservation measures.
Pt Yogendra Mahant: He is known for speaking against the BJP government over the Narmada scam. According to him, the state government spent crore of rupees in the name of plantation on the banks of Narmada river. He has even convened a rath yatra between May 1 and May 15 in 45 districts to expose the wrongdoings of the government.
The move to grant him MoS rank by the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government at this time appears to be a ploy to pacify the religious leader.
Narmadanandji Maharaj: He is a revered spiritual guru. He organises yatras during Hanuman Jayanti and Ram Navami. In 2017, Narmadanandji had organised several shobha yatras in many parts of the state. He also has a link with the Hanuman Janmotsava Samiti and Sanatan Dharma Mahasabha.