Tribute to Anil Madhav Dave: BJP has lost an ideal politician

The Union environment minister died on Thursday after a heart attack.

 |  4-minute read |   18-05-2017
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In the uncertain world of politics, predicting where one would be career-wise in a few years from now seems almost impossible. But a look at minister of state (independent charge) for environment and forests, Anil Madhav Dave’s career progression makes it look possible.

Dave, 60, prior to being sworn in as minister for environment and forests in July last year was the original Narmada warrior, raising environmental issues with the river, advocating large scale afforestation in the catchment area of the river and even taking up the issue of immersion of idols during the festival season.

In a sense, his taking up office in the environment ministry was a logical conclusion to a career in environmental activism, only that the time he spent in office was short.

Dave passed away on Thursday after a massive heart attack.

Born in Badnagar in Ujjain district on July 6, 1956, Dave shared his birthplace with the legendary Kavi Pradeep, the poet who wrote songs like De Di Hume Aazadi and then the sure-shot goosebumps-giver Ae Mere Watan ke Logon.

Dave did his schooling, college and finally a post-graduation in commerce from Indore. During his student days, inspired by his grandfather, he joined the RSS and eventually became a full time pracharak. He led a bachelor's life and a near Spartan existence. He was soft-spoken, aware of the subjects he was fond of and never came across as haughty - a trait that separated him from politics.

There was also a side to Dave that distinguished him from the regular image of a pracharak. He was fond of the outdoors, flying and shooting. He owned a couple of weapons, a rifle and a pistol and did a Narmada tour by air from the source to the mouth, flying the Cessna aircraft himself.

Later, he undertook a Narmada yatra on a raft as well - which took him 19 days to complete. His house in Bhopal is called Nadi ka Ghar and Dave had set up an organisation called the Narmada Samagra that works for improving the catchment of the river.

Dave also set up the Jan Abhiyan Parishad in 2004 - an umbrella organisation of about 25,000 NGOs. The Parishad organised the recently concluded Narmada Sewa Yatra. He also organised shows of the mega play Janata Raja - based on the life of Shivaji who Dave admired.

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Politically, Dave came into his own in 2003 when, soon after he came from the RSS to the BJP, he along with a few others set up a group informally called Jawli - a name that comes up often in tales about Dave’s hero, Shivaji.

The group was tasked with strategising the victory of the BJP led by Uma Bharati in the 2003 Assembly elections against then Congress CM Digvijaya Singh - considered a formidable adversary by the BJP.

Dave was part of strategy formulation even in the 2008 and 2013 Assembly elections, although by then the BJP in MP had become associated with Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2009 and got another term in 2016.

During the Simhastha at Ujjain, Dave had organised the Vaicharik Mahakumbh - a meeting held on the sidelines of the Kumbh to discuss issues affecting the world. Soon after this event, he was elevated as a minister in the Union Cabinet.

How effective was Dave as minister for environment and forests? He barely got a year in office but the pulls and pressures he had to deal with, especially when in the development versus environment paradigm, were known to him.

While speaking at the Investor Summit in Indore in October 2016, he had said that he was pro-decision-making and did not want them to linger on endlessly. “Decide on clearances is what I tell people in my ministry,” he had said.

In the world of the environmentalist, a statement like this is read as the minister asking the bureaucrats to accord clearances hastily. He faced that flak from the environmental lobby.

Madhya Pradesh had great hope from Dave on the issue of getting Asiatic lions at the Palpur Kuno Sanctuary from Gir in Gujarat. Palpur is the proposed second home of the lions in Madhya Pradesh but even after the Supreme Court had ruled in the state's favour, the Union government and Gujarat have been delaying the transfer.

Dave did not do much in this regard to enforce an order by the highest court of the land. Perhaps, he was aware of the political exigencies that were at play.

With the Narendra Modi and Amit Shah-led BJP making non-conventional choices as CM in states, Dave’s name often came up as a possible replacement for Shivraj Singh Chouhan in MP - in case an opportunity arose.

If the BJP has the mould for an ideal politician - Dave would perhaps relate to it most accurately.

According to his will, Dave’s last rites would be performed on the banks of the Narmada at Bandraban near Hoshangabad on May 19. The MP government has declared two-day mourning.

Also read: By inviting PM Modi for Narmada Seva Yatra, who does Shivraj Singh Chouhan think he's fooling?

Also read: How sand mafia is waging a war in Chambal, endangering wildlife

Writer

Rahul Noronha Rahul Noronha

The writer is Associate Editor, India Today.

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