Sporting rudraksha and marigold garlands, hundreds of saffron- and white-clad saints attended a Sant Sammelan (gathering of saints) organised by the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh.
Raising slogans like ‘Jai Jai Shri Ram’, ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’ and ‘Gaumata ki jai ho’, and blaming the previous BJP government for not doing enough for them during its long rule, the religious functionaries were hosted by the Spiritual Department of the Kamal Nath government at Bhopal’s Minto Hall — the heritage structure that once served as the Assembly building has been converted into a plush convention centre for the gathering.
Referring to the huge turnout, Nath, without naming the BJP, said some people must be “having a stomach ache”, and said that some people think that religion is their “monopoly”.
Accusing the Opposition BJP of committing financial irregularities in the name of religion, Nath said his government would probe scams like the one in plantation of saplings along the Narmada, and another during the Simhastha Kumbha, when crores were allegedly unaccounted for.
Namdev Das Tyagi, also known as Computer Baba, who enjoyed minister of state status in the previous Shivraj Singh Chouhan government but switched allegiances and is now the head of the Narmada, Kshipra and Mandakini River Trust in the Congress government, read out a charter of demands that included regularising land on which religious functionaries set up their aashrams and kutiyas five or more years ago; as well as pension and health facilities. Like many other saints, he also described the Congress government as “our own”.
The CM said his government was considering giving permanent patta to sants’ kutiyas, ashrams, temples and gaushalas that have come up on government land. He said such gatherings of saints should be held periodically. “Before the next gathering, the government will mull over your demands and try to ensure that all are enacted. I thought the BJP had already fulfilled your demands,” he said.
Mutt Mandir Salahkar Samiti chairman Swami Subhodhnand Maharaj accused the BJP of betraying the saints’ community, and without naming Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur, said the BJP had sent people accused of bomb blasts to Parliament.