The Madhya Pradesh government accepted mahant Narendra Giri as the president of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP). Mahant Gyandas was another claimant to the post.
The Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (All India Akhara Council) is the apex organisation of Sikh and Hindu Sants (saints) and Sadhus (ascetics) in India.
There are 13 recognised akharas (institutions of saints) in the country and together they choose a president of ABAP. Mahant Gyandas of Nirmohi Vaishav Akhara is the former president, while Mahant Narendra Giri of Niranjani Akhara (a shaiv akhara) is the incumbent president.
A controversy has been brewing for the past one month while the administration has been avoiding the issue and refusing to answer whom they considered as the president.
The fair authority recently called a meeting of all the 13 akharas but refrained from inviting any of the two president claimants.
Giri managed to get it declared from eight akharas that they would participate in the meeting only when Giri was recognised as the president.
This compelled the administration to cancel the meeting.
Sources said chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan then called up Giri on Wednesday and assured that the meeting would be called soon under his leadership.
On Thursday, incharge minister Bhupendra Singh accompanied with senior administrative and police officials reached Niranjani akhara and had a closed door meeting with Giri for an hour.
After the meeting, Giri said the much awaited meeting was likely to be held on March 13 in which he would be invited as the president of ABAP.
“Eight akharas have voted for me. How can the government ignore it?” he asked.
Giri said a letter of the meeting was expected to release in a day or two.
The incharge minister also met agitating saints of Vaishanav akharas who were on a fast until death for the last three days.
The saints were demanding that land allotment to different khalsas under their akhara should be made on their recommendation only. They were also demanding that religious institutions, other than the akharas, who have been allotted land near them, should be removed.
Singh accepted their demands and offered juice to the saints.
Singh also met mahanirwani akhara saint Prakash Puri and assured that all works pending on the akhara site would be finished soon. Puri had recently warned Chouhan of not participating in the Simhastha fair alleging improper attitude of fair authorities in arrangements.
Gyandas was elected as the president before the start of Simhastha fair in 2004 but after a few years, opposition brewed and the matter reached the High Court in Allahabad.
On March 14, 2015, a meeting of ABAP was held in Ujjain in which Narendra giri was elected as the new president.
Representatives of 11 akharas were present but the two Nirwani and Digambar (both Vaishav) akharas did not participate.
Gyandas had said the court had directed for fresh elections which are yet to take place. However, Narendra Giri said he was elected on the basis of majority votes for five years and the next election would be held in Allahabad in 2019.