Shivraj govt bows to 'saints'; Computer baba calls off Narmada scam protest

Shivraj Singh Chauhan
A day after getting the 'Minister of State' status, two religious leaders on Wednesday cancelled their proposed stir against an alleged scam in the Narmada conservation programme, while a third one said he would not avail the benefits as MoS. Seeking to downplay the controversy over grant of MoS status to five 'saints,' Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Wednesday said his government wanted to rope in people from all walks of life for welfare and development. Elsewhere, Bhayyu Maharaj, one of the five religious leaders accorded MoS status, said he would not avail of the benefits associated with the MoS status.

Ahead of the state assembly elections due later this year, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh had on Tuesday accorded the MoS status to five Hindu religious leaders - Narmadanand Maharaj, Hariharanand Maharaj, Computer Baba, Bhayyu Maharaj and Pandit Yogendra Mahant. On March 31, the five were appointed to a committee set up for the Narmada river conservation. As members of the committee, they were being given the MoS status, an official of the General Administration Department had said yesterday.

The opposition Congress dubbed the decision to appoint them as MoS as the BJP's attempt to exploit the respect these religious leaders enjoy in the society. The BJP hit back saying the opposition party disliked anything related to saints.

Top 10 developments of Shivraj Singh Chouhan's decision to give 'Minister of State' status to 5 saints and Madhya Pradesh elections

1. Computer baba, Yogendra Mahant call off Narmada scam protest

A day after getting the 'Minister of State' status, two religious leaders on Wednesday cancelled their proposed stir against an alleged scam in the Narmada conservation programme. Computer Baba had earlier announced that he would take out 'Narmada Ghotala Rath Yatra', along with Yogendra Mahant, in every district of MP from April 1 to May 15, to expose an alleged scam in planting of saplings on the banks of the Narmada and to demand action against illegal sand mining.

The publicity material of the campaign was also circulated widely on social media.

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.

Yogendra Mahant, who was the convener of the proposed campaign, also said that they cancelled the 'yatra' as the state government fulfilled their demand to set up a panel for the river conservation.

2. Opposition slams MP's BJP govt for according MoS status to 5 babas: Senior Congress leader Raj Babbar, said the move showed Chouhan's "weakness" that he has to rely on religious leaders for victory in assembly polls.

"This shows weakness of Chouhan... He thinks they can win election, which seems impossible now, by relying on the saffron-clad religious leaders," he said.

Left parties demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should clarify the "unconstitutional" decision by the state government while the AAP alleged that the move was "placatory" and to silence them (the religious leaders) from exposing the MP government.

"Mixing religion and governance, and mixing religion and politics is unconstitutional. It is not in accordance with our Constitution. MP government has been doing this in order to polarise not only people but also religion. The state government is doing it for electoral gains. The prime minister should reply how BJP-ruled states are doing such things," CPI leader D Raja said.

The CPI(M), too, said it felt that the state government's move was influenced by the "communal agenda" of BJP-RSS.

"We consider it totally wrong that they should be getting MoS status... This is completely unacceptable. This is another example of BJP-RSS trying to communalise an institution," CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said.

3. Chouhan is trying to cover up scam: The AAP alleged that Chouhan was trying to cover up a scam through this move.

"Computer Baba had threatened to expose the scam of Narmada Yatra undertaken by Shivraj Singh Chouhan. This is why the chief minister has given Cabinet status to these babas. And if these babas don't tell the truth then it will be a great disservice," AAP's Madhya Pradesh convenor Alok Agarwal said.

4. Madhya Pradesh spiritual guru says will not accept MoS status: Spiritual guru Uday Singh Deshmukh alias Bhaiyyu Maharaj on Wednesday said he will not accept the Minister of State status conferred on him by the Madhya Pradesh government.

"A post holds no importance for a saint. All he has ought to think of is service to the people. When a post or status does not touch your mind, intellect or conscience, why think about it," Bhaiyyu Maharaj said.

He is one of the five saints who are members of a special committee to spread public awareness on conservation of Narmada river and plantation drive and who have been given the MoS status.

Bhaiyyu Maharaj said he had no fondness for a particular party or community and his only emphasis was on nationalism.

5. Uma Bharti backs ministership of saints in Madhya Pradesh: Union Minister Uma Bharti lauded the Madhya Pradesh government for granting Minister of State (MoS) status to five Hindu religious leaders.

Condemning the Congress for opposing it, the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said that the Indian culture has always respected saints.

"Indian culture has always respected saints. Ministry has not been given to cons and thugs but saints. I applaud Shivraj Singh Chouhan government and condemn Congress for opposing it," Bharti said.

6. Petition against MoS status to seers in MP: A petition has been filed in an Indore court against the government's decision.

7. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led state government on Tuesday granted MoS status to Baba Narmadanand, Baba Hariharanand, Computer Baba, Bhaiyyu Maharaj, and Pandit Yogenda Mahant in the state cabinet.

On March, 31, these five leaders were also appointed as members in a special committee formed for raising awareness about water conservation, cleanliness and aforestation near Narmada River.

8. Narmadanand Maharaj, Hariharanand Maharaj, Computer Baba, Bhayyu Maharaj and Pandit Yogendra Mahant were granted MoS status.

9. Madhya Pradesh is set for Assembly elections this year. For the past 14 years, Madhya Pradesh has been ruled by the BJP.

10. Shivraj Singh Chouhan's defence:

"We want every section of the society to work towards development and welfare of people and that is why we have attempted to bring together each section of the society," Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on five religious leaders being granted state minister status.

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