In a surprise move, Yoga Federation of India (YFI) has recommended Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for the prestigious Dronacharya Award. The spiritual leader’s name was forwarded by the Yoga body last month keeping in view his contribution in producing ‘World Champion yogis’. Notedly, the award is the highest recognition for excellence in sports coaching.

“His contribution to the sport cannot go unnoticed. He has given birth to several international yoga stars, including world and Asian champions. So, as per ministry’s policy, we recommended his name for the Dronacharya Award last month,” YFI president Ashok Kumar Agarwal told The Indian Express. Agarwal listed four names — Neelam Insan, Karamdeep Insan, Swapnil Insan and Kirti Insan — to support his claim. These athletes won medals at the World and Asian Cups last year.

The Dera Saccha Sauda chief has also dabbled in acting, singing and directing with four back to back films and two best acting nominations.

Singh’s spokesperson Dr Aditya Insaan said their institute in Sirsa has been assisting sportspersons for nearly 20 years. He also counted out names of various cricket stars to make his point. “Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan, Yusuf Pathan, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Joginder Sharma and countless national level players have played tournaments here. And all of them were extremely happy to be here.” he said

“The Shah Satnam Ji Foundation-run schools, colleges and institutions have made it to international podium finishes with only Saint Dr Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan as their mentor and Papa coach,” the spokesperson added.