Shivraj accords minister status to a few Sadhus and Babas before general election

Lalit Shastri

Politcs of BJP has gone full circle in Madhya Pradesh – from Kamandal to Modi to Kamandal

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has become a target of attack and there is serious criticism regarding the formation of a special committee comprising of “Babas and Sadhus” to conduct a mass awareness drive for tree plantation on the banks of the Narmada river and water conservation.

All the Babas appointed on April 3 as members of the new committee – Narmadanand, Hariharananda, Computer Baba, Bhayyu Maharaj and Pandit Yogendra Mahant – have been given the status of Minister of State. With this status comes position of primacy as per the protocol and perks of office, including an official vehicle with the red beacon, which in itself is a symbol of power and authority.

The creation of the special committee packed with Hindu religious leaders has come in for a scathing attack by Political observers, bureaucrats and more particularly media-persons. They are particularly saying that the chief minister has gone out of his way to win the support of Babas who were about to take out a “Narmada Ghotala Rath Yatra” (Narmada scam rath yatra) to expose large-scale corruption in a tree plantation drive launched last year on the banks of the Narmada river at the initiative of the chief minister.

The 45-day Narmada Ghotala Rath Yatra was to begin on April 1 and conclude on May 15.

As a politically significant strategy, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister led a Narmada Seva Yatra between December 2016 and May 2017. This was projected as the wold’s biggest river conservation campaign by the State Government. The Yatra had concluded with Prime Minister Narendra Modi public rally at Amarkantak, where the Narmada originates. Speaking on this occasion, the PM had said that the Narmada river has been brutally exploited in recent times.

The former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh was not to be left behind, After observing a ten year “Sanyas” (renunciation) from electoral politics, he also chose to go a six month journey on foot with his wife along the Narmada. He will be concluding his journey in the next few days.

There is a political significance behind Chouhan’s Narmada Seva Yatra as well as Digvijay’s Narmada Parikrama since the region covered by the two leaders during their respective campaigns accounts for over 5o per cent of the Assembly seats in the State. The timing of both these yatras is relevant from the point of view of the coming geneeral election to the State Assembly due later this year.

Everyone is talking about the political mileage the State chief minister must be aiming for through the induction of Babas and sadhus in the newly constituted committee. The move is being looked down and is being seen as a cheap political stunt devoid of the highest standards of morality in public life.

Postscript: After V.P. Singh, the Prime Minister of India between 1989 and 1990, and his Mandal politics, the politcs of BJP has gone full circle in Madhya Pradesh – from Kamandal to Modi to Kamandal.

Kamandal initially was equated with LK Advani’s rath yatra and the campaign for Lord Ram’s temple at Ayodhya. It was followed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s development and India Shining agenda followed by Prime Minister’s Modi’s promise of “achche din” and all round progress. Now when Madhya Pradesh is on the threshold of another general election, we have Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his new found penchant for Kamandal – this time represented by the sadhus and the babas in his new team for Narmada.

Kamandal is the oblong water pot made of a dry gourd, coconut shell, or metal, used by sadhus and yogis for storing drinking water.

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