BHOPAL: An environmentalist at heart, a meticulous political strategist and gentleman politician is how union minister of state for environment Anil Madhav Dave is remembered, both by political allies and opponents.
Born on July 6, 1956 in a family with a strong RSS background at Barnagar in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain district, 60-year-old Dave passed away in Delhi early on Thursday, just three days after Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi launched the action plan to save river Narmada – a cause closest to Dave’s heart.
The cause of river conservation, particularly the river Narmada, was best accentuated by his three-storey building ‘Nadi ka Ghar’ (river house) in Bhopal where he run the Narmada Samagra, an NGO for conserving the river Narmada.
“Weeks before MP chief minister (CM) Shivraj Singh Chouhan launched the Narmada Seva Yatra in December 2016, my Rajya Sabha colleague and then the union minister of state for environment discussed with me in parliament an ambitious plan to conserve river Narmada. Since I also come from Jabalpur, situated on the banks of river Narmada, Dave took time out to discuss his planned public movement for the river, which was to be totally non-political,” recounted Congress’ Rajya Sabha member and legal eagle Vivek Tankha.
“With Dave’s demise, we’ve lost a gentleman politician, who was well known for his commitment towards the river Narmada,” added Tankha.
In his last wish penned in an official letterhead in July 23, 2012, he mentions a desire for his cremation at Badrabhan on the banks of river Narmada in MP’s Hoshangabad district. Anil Madhav Dave has built an ashram here and used to organise the international river festival to generate awareness about river conservation.
In the July 2012 letter called, ‘My Wish and Will,’ Dave has also urged for no memorial, event, award or statue in his memory. Instead he added that "if any work is to be done in my memory, it should be zeroed on tree plantation and conservation of water bodies, but my name shall never feature in those efforts."
Even as a Rajya Sabha member, before becoming a minister in July 2016, he served as Member of Parliamentary Forum on Global Warming and Climate Change and represented the country at various international environment meets.
Before assuming charge of minister of environment in New Delhi during July 2016, Anil Madhav Dave was well known for his work on Narmada conservation. Dave who held a private pilot license, flew the Cessna 173 aircraft to perform parikrama (circumambulation) of river Narmada in air.
He also completed a 1300-plus km journey on the river by raft in 19 days and his mortal remains will be cremated at Badrabhan, venue of the river festival, on Friday.
National BJP vice president and Rajya Sabha member Prabhat Jha said, “In the 35 years of association with Dave, I’ve seen him totally committed to the cause of river and environment conservation, particularly the Narmada river conservation. One of the books Amarkantak to Amarkantak, exemplifies his love for the river considered Madhya Pradesh's lifeline.”
Besides being an environmentalist at heart, Anil Madhav Dave was also considered a key political strategist and is accredited with bringing back the BJP to power in MP after 10 years of the Digvijaya Singh-led Congress government rule through his meticulous booth level management and planning.
“He only believed in winning. It was Dave’s meticulous planning from a small bungalow in Bhopal, which largely paved the passage for BJP’s return to power after 10 years of Congress rule in MP. Since then he was the spine of all successful elections till date in the state,” said Jha.
A postgraduate in commerce from Indore’s Gujarati College, Anil Madhav Dave inherited the legacy of RSS from grandfather Dadasahab Dave and turned a full-fledged pracharak after completing higher education in Indore.
Ahead of the 2003 assembly polls in MP, the Sangh deputed Dave to the BJP and his meticulous planning led the BJP to power in the state after a decade.
He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2009 and had been on various committees, including chairman, Select Committee on Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2013. He also organised the World Hindi Conference in Bhopal and an international conference during the Simhastha (Kumbh) Mela in Ujjain in 2016.
“He was one of my closest friends right from college days in Indore. While I was an NSUI leader at Christian College in Indore, he was an ABVP leader in Gujarati College, but clash of ideologies never hurt our friendship. He was a gentleman, respected even by his sworn political opponents,” said MP Congress chief spokesperson KK Mishra.
Owing to his proximity to PM Narendra Modi, union minister Anil Madhav Dave’s name often did the rounds in political circles as possible successor to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in MP, but Dave himself always ruled out such a possibility.
Anil Madhav Dave penned seven books in Hindi and English, spanning from Srijan se Visarjan Tak, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sambhal ke Rahna Ghar mein Chupe Gaddaron se, Shatabdhi ke Paanch Kaale Panne, Narmada Samagra (Yatra Vritant) and Samgra Gram Vikas (all in Hindi) to Amarkantak to Amarkantak and Beyond Copenhagen (both in English).