The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Madhya Pradesh gave minister of state status to five religious leaders, PTI reported on Wednesday. Opposition party Congress has described the move to accord Computer Baba, Bhaiyyuji Maharaj, Narmadanand Maharaj, Hariharanand Maharaj and Yogendra Mahant with the designation as a political gimmick.

The state’s general administration department’s additional secretary KK Katiya’s order follows the appointment of the religious leaders to a committee set up on March 31 to promote the Narmada conservation project.

The Congress alleged that the state government wanted to benefit from the popularity of these religious leaders. The Opposition party linked the decision to the Assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year. “These saints should inspect where the state government has planted six crore saplings [along the river banks as claimed by the chief minister [Shivraj Singh Chouhan],” said Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi.

Madhya Pradesh BJP spokesperson Rajnish Agrawal, however, refuted the claims and said the Congress “dislikes anything to do with the saints”. “Saints and seers were accorded the minister of state status to ensure public participation for the Narmada conservation work,” Agrawal said.