The government elevated Madhya Pradesh Cow Protection Board chairperson Swami Akhileshwaranand to the Cabinet rank, reportedly after he expressed displeasure on being appointed to a Narmada conservation panel along with some “controversial” religious figures.
In April, five religious figures, including Namdev Tyagi, popularly known as Computer Baba, and Pandit Yogendra Mahant were granted the status of Minister of State (MoS) along with Bhaiyyuji Maharaj, an Indore-based spiritual leader who counts leading politicians across party lines as his devotees, and two relatively low profile religious figures Swami Hariharanandji Saraswati and Narmadanandji.
They were also named on a panel, set up for conservation of the Narmada, along with Akhileshwaranand.
Akhileshwaranand reportedly expressed his discontent on being put at par with Computer Baba and Yogendra Mahant. In a letter to the chief minister in April, he had also offered to resign from the panel.
“I was surprised to find my name on the committee because my consent was not taken. I object to being bracketed with controversial figures. I feel humiliated because I have been put at par with those controversial figures,” he said in the letter, without naming the two religious leaders.
Akhileshwaranand wrote to Chouhan only days after it emerged that Computer Baba and Yogendra Mahant were allegedly granted the MoS status after they agreed to call off a yatra to expose an alleged corruption in planting of saplings along the Narmada. Sources said, the chief minister urged Akhileshwaranand not to step down from the Narmada panel because it could fuel further controversies.
Meanwhile, Akhileshwaran-and continued to remain absent from the meetings of the panel attended by the two leaders.
The order, granting the Cow Protection Board chairperson, a Cabinet rank was issued on June 11, just a day after he shared dais with Chouhan at a state-level farmers’ convention in Jabalpur.On Tuesday, he thanked the chief minister for his new elevated status, but said it did not bring any extra perquisites. “The latest order amounts to correcting the earlier wrong,” he said, insisting that as the cow board chairman he was entitled to the cabinet minister’s rank, not MoS rank.