Ahead of the assembly elections in 2018 end of this year, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh accorded Minister of State (MoS) status to five Hindu religious leaders — Computer Baba, Bhaiyyuji Maharaj, Narmadanandji, Hariharanandji and Pt Yogendra Mahant — on Tuesday, a move the Congress called “a gimmick to score political points”. However, before granting MoS status, the government first appointed them to a committee set up to create awareness about tree plantation, water conservation and cleanliness along the Narmada.
As members of the committee, they have been given the MoS status, a General Administration Department’s official said. The opposition Congress criticised the government for trying to exploit religious appeal of these saints. “It’s a gimmick to score political points. He ignored conservation of the Narmada. These saints should inspect where the state government has planted six crore saplings as claimed by the CM,” said Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi.
Meet the five religious leaders granted MoS status:
Computer Baba: As amusing as it may sound, Swami Namdev Tyagi is called Computer Baba because he claims to have a computer-like brain and a very sharp memory. Moreover, this self-proclaimed modern ascetic is always seen with a laptop in hand. The baba keeps himself armed with all the latest gadgets, including wi-fi dongles, mobile phones and even a helicopter. Apparently, he created ripples in 2013, when he asked Kumbh Mela authorities to allow him to arrive in a helicopter and take a dip in the river.
What has raised eyebrows ,after according the MoS status to Computer Baba, is the fact that he had earlier declared to launch a 15-day “Narmada scam Yatra” along the bank of river Narmada in the state. He, however, junked his plan without assigning any reason. Thanking the Madhya Pradesh government for showing faith on the sadhu community, Computer Baba said they would try their best to work for the society’s welfare. “We thank the govt on behalf of the ‘sadhu’ community for showing trust in us, we will try our best to work for welfare of the society,” ANI quoted him as saying.
Bhaiyyu Maharaj: A zamindar’s son and a former model, Bhaiyyu Maharaj, whose real name is Udaysingh Deshmukh, is known for his opulent lifestyle. He is elegantly dressed, operates from a sprawling ashram at Indore, travels in a white Mercedes SUV with a small band of followers and stays in lavish resorts during his trips. He has a wide following among politicians and businessmen, who flock to him for ‘advice’ on spiritual matters.
According to his website, Yuva Rastra Saint Shri Sadguru Bhaiyyuji Maharaj is mentioned as a spiritual leader, social reformer and motivator, whose sole aim is to bring happiness on the faces of countless poor and downtrodden people, lift them from morass of despair, poverty, social inequality and enable them to live a life of dignity. The high-profile ‘saint’ has married an Indore-based medical practitioner, upsetting many of his disciples. Apparently, Maharaj played an important mediator role in persuading Anna Hazare to call off his fast for Lokpal in 2011.
Hariharanandji: He was among the core group of 50 people who led the Namami Devi Narmade Sewa Yatra — the world’s largest river conservation campaign in terms of sheer scale. Started on 11 December 2016, the yatra concluded on 11 May 2017. The 144-day journey on foot from Amarkantak to Sondwa (Alirajpur) and back to Amarkantak saw Hariharanandji conducting workshops and public meetings on afforestation, sanitation, soil and water conservation, pollution control measures and promotion of organic farming.
Pt Yogendra Mahant: Pandit Yogendra Mahant raised his voice against the BJP state government over the Narmada scam and has convened a rath yatra from May 1 to May 15 in 45 districts. Mahant said the yatra would expose the state government for spending crores of rupees for plantation in the name of Narmada hariyali project. During the rath yatra, he said, it would be displayed on LED screens how the state government was fooling people of the state. The move by Chouhan to grant MoS status seemed to be a ploy to pacify the religious leader, some opposition leaders had alleged.
Narmadanandji: Narmadanandji Maharaj is a revered spiritual guru in Madhya Pradesh and organises yatras during Hanuman Jayanti and Ram Navami. Last year, he held several shobha yatras (procession) and events organised in different parts of the state and is associated with the Hanuman Janmotsava Samiti and Sanatan Dharma Mahasabha.
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