The Madhya Pradesh government has elevated state Cow Protection Board chairman 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.
In April, the government appointed religious leaders Namdev Tyagi, popularly known as Computer Baba, Pandit Yogendra Mahant, Bhaiyuji Maharaj (now deceased), Swami Hariharanandji Saraswati and Narmadanandji to the Narmada protection panel and granted them the status of Minister of State (MoS).
They were also named to a panel, set up for conservation of the Narmada, along with Akhileshwaranand.
"The state government issued an order granting me the cabinet rank on June 11," Akhileshwaranand confirmed today.
However, Akhileshwaranand acknowledged that he was not comfortable when he was appointed to the Narmada conservation panel.
"I was uneasy when I was picked for the Narmada conservation panel with some other people. In 2016, I was made the chairman of the MPCPB. By virtue of that post, I should have been given the cabinet rank but that did not happen," he said.
However, the General Administration Department issued an order and granted me the MoS status along with three of my deputies in the MPCPB, he added.
"In fact, three vice chairmen of the MPCPB enjoy the MoS status. It was just a technical (writing) mistake under which we all were accorded the same status," Akhileshwaranand claimed.
Akhileshwaranand reportedly shot off a letter to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan days after it emerged that Computer Baba and Yogendra Mahant were allegedly granted the MoS status after they agreed to call off a yatra campaign to expose alleged corruption in planting of saplings along the Narmada river.
According to reports, he had even threatened to resign from the panel.
Akhileshwaranand, however, had denied writing the letter to the chief minister.
"The latest order (granting him the cabinet status) amounts to correcting the earlier wrong," he said while insisting that he deserved the new status since the last two years and not the MOS rank.
"I am 'Mahamandelshwar' of Niranjani Akhada and these (worldly) ranks are too small for me," Akhileshwaranand added.
The order granting the cabinet rank to the seer came a day after he shared stage with Chouhan at a state-level farmers' convention in Jabalpur.
Madhya Pradesh is slated to go to polls later this year.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)