BHOPAL: Is the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government’s decision to accord minister of state (MoS) status to five Hindu seers and spiritual gurus really (see box) aimed at furthering the cause of the Narmada or a quid pro quo for nixing plans to expose alleged corruption in river conservation works?
For, two of the five spiritual leaders - Computor Baba and Pandit Yogendra Mahant - deciding on Monday to scrap their Narmada Ghotala Rath Yatra and getting MoS status the next day was too much of a coincidence. Ghotala is the Hindi word for corruption.
Indore-based Computer Baba was to begin his one-and-a-half month long yatra on April 1, to expose corruption in the reported plantation of six crore saplings on the banks of the Narmada in Madhya Pradesh last year.The yatra had a nine-point agenda, which included exposing the unchecked sand mining in the Narmada, about which CM Chouhan has always remained in denial. Also, the issue of unchecked flow of untreated sewage water and chemical and industrial effluents into the river Narmada was to be taken up. Pandit Yogendra Mahant was the convenor of the yatra.
With Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls slated to be held by the end of this year, the MoS status sparked a political row with the Congress alleging the BJP government had bought the silence of the powerful babas. State Congress spokesperson Vibha Patel accused the government of luring the seers away from their mass contact programme against corruption.
The ruling BJP spokesperson Rahul Kothari, however, denied the Congress’ allegations. “Whatever the BJP or the government does, the Congress finds something wrong in it. The MoS status to the spiritual quintet has been accorded to ensure that they have all the required wherewithal and systems to work for Narmada conservation in an unhindered manner,” said Kothari.
Importantly, both Computer Baba and his close aide Pandit Yogendra Mahant, who till a few days ago were critical of the state government for making false claims on Narmada river conservation, changed their tone on Wednesday after being accorded the MoS status.
“We’re not taking out the proposed Yatra anymore, as the government has agreed to constituting the committee for Narmada river conservation. The MoS status will render us all required systems like vehicles and security for carrying out the work of spreading a message among the public on Narmada conservation in a more systematic manner,” said Computer Baba. “The BJP government in MP is the government of Hindus, which respects saints and seers. We’ll work with it for Narmada conservation,” added Computer Baba.
“We had never demanded any MoS status, but if the state government feels it will accelerate Narmada river conservation work, then we thank the CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan for it,” said Pandit Yogendra Mahant. According to sources, Computer Baba had met top state government functionaries in Bhopal recently, after which the decision to shelve the Rath Yatra plan was taken by him following an assurance by the state government for forming a panel for Narmada conservation comprising five spiritual leaders.