BHOPAL: The Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh is facing the music for patronising political 'Babas' for trying to wean away the Hindutva constituency nurtured by preceding Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Ruling Congress MLAs and ministers are questioning the credentials of Namdev Tyagi aka Computer Baba, who has, with ample support from the government, become the Chairman of Narmada Sewa Trust and has been carrying out raids to check unauthorised sand mining in state riverbeds.
Mineral Minister Pradeep Jaiswal on Saturday questioned the Computer Baba's authority to carry out the raids while the Mineral Department has authorised mining in some areas.
The Baba is obviously encroaching upon the minister's domain and Jaiswal said that he is pressurising the officers and employees of the Department in the name of stopping illegal mining.
He also said the Baba has no knowledge of scientific factors involved in sand mining. He is criminalising a legally sanctioned activity as mining contracts given by the panchayats are valid and his actions are causing confusion in the department, he added.
Jaiswal said a new mineral policy will come into force in the state from April 1 and will cover sand mining too.
Illegal mining of sand and other minerals has never been a secret in the state. It prospered through the 15 years of the BJP government and has continued unabated under the Kamal Nath government for more than a year.
Barring a few unproductive raids, the Baba and his Trust have little to show by way of improving the state of the Narmada. He claims to have handed a list of unauthorised miners of sand and minerals to the Chief Minister and says vested interests in the government and mining business are opposing his actions.
Asked about the scientific basis of his claims on environmental protection, the Baba says he doesn't have enough funds for his campaign to protect the river, but has tried to ensure some plantation along the riverbanks to bring about a positive change.
Computer Baba, a school teacher who gave up his job to move to the greener pasture of "Babadom", was let into the political circuit by Chouhan when questioned over his tall
claims of plantation along the banks of Narmada and the BJP government's steps to check illegal mining.
Computer Baba got a statutory status with the rank of a minister of state.
But he sensed BJP's poor show in the assembly two years ago and moved to the Congress apparently at the instance of former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who was countering Chouhan's political moves on the Narmada with his own yatra.
Baba took a U-turn and began targeting Chouhan and BJP. Digvijaya Singh sought to exploit Baba's influence for electoral optics during the Lok Sabha elections, but he failed to convince both the Hindu constituents and his traditional Muslim supporters and lost the elections heavily.
However, the Baba rode Singh's influence to stay put in corridors of power and has become an embarrassment to the government. Incidentally, Digvijaya Singh's brother Laxman Singh, who has also been in the BJP for some time, has been warning the Congress against patronising Babas. It will only harm the party, he had said.
BJP state spokesperson Rajpal Singh Sisodia says the entire focus of the Kamal Nath government and the people in power is only on collective exploitation of mineral resources and sand. "Congress MLAs accept their helplessness against the sand mafia. The Chief Minister owes an explanation about who is backing Computer Baba," he said.