This encounter with Anil ji happened back in 2006, but I still vividly remember the details. At that time I was associated with a group of industries that had ventured into biofuels. It became apparent that the biofuel project will result in a large volume of procurement of non-edible oil seeds, like Pongamia. An idea emerged-if Pongamia could be planted by tribal families on unused barren land, it could generate a guaranteed income of Rs. 24,000 per acre; a sum good enough to lift a family above the poverty line.
A pilot of 5000 families growing Pongamia on 5000-acre land was envisioned. Thus, we decided to seek a state government to partner with us for this project. It was then that I thought of Anil Dave ji. He was the organization secretary of BJP then and had led it to victory in Madhya Pradesh. I had been meeting him at Thinkers’ Meet every year and was already impressed with his intellect and deeply meaningful interventions in the sessions.
I called him and explained the project. His reply was quite simple, “Come to Bhopal and let’s see what can be done”. This was the first time I was approaching government department for such work and obviously had my own apprehensions about dealing with the government.
Nevertheless, I reached Bhopal and was received warmly by Anil ji. He had a couple of urgent meetings to attend before he could make time for me. He invited me to join him and hence I tagged along. Over the next four hours, I was amazed by the variety of issues he handled and streamlined, despite not holding any official position in the government. Be it the issue of protection of water bodies and resources across MP or restarting an obsolete factory by transferring the ownership to the workers; he worked with ease and command over the subject.
Finally, by afternoon we reached Chief Minister’s place. I presented the project details. Once I answered all the questions about the project, the secretary started almost grilling me about my motive behind getting involved in this project.
Secretary: “So, the 5000-acre land is to be given to your organization?”
Me: “No, it will be allocated directly to 5000 tribal families.”
Secretary: “Then, you need a subsidy for the saplings?”
Me: “No, directly to tribal families.”
Secretary: “Would you sell the saplings to them?”
Me: “No, neither samplings nor seeds. We will just guide.”
Secretary: “Then, they must sell you the seeds at the fixed price, right?”
Me: “No, at the market rate. We will guarantee a base rate.”
Secretary: “But they must sell it to you, right?”
Me: “No sir, they can sell to whomever they want, we are just providing a guarantee of purchase.”
Ultimately he asked, “Then what’s your gain in this? Why are you doing this?”
I could see the “Come on, what’s in it for you? Everybody wants something from us.” written all over his face. While I was still wondering about how I would reiterate that there indeed was no personal gain; may be by presenting my personal or corporate credentials and CSR record. As I was about to speak, Anil ji preempted me. He looked at the secretary; gestured at me, and said “Swayamsevak Hai. . .”
The conviction he carried with just those two words left me speechless. For a Sangh Swayamsevak, it is natural to do something without any expectation of personal gains. There is nothing extra-ordinary about it. He just sealed the question with those two words-“Swayamsevak Hai . . .”
I have been a swayamsevak since childhood, but it was, in that moment, that I felt the sheer weight of the trust and responsibility that his two words insinuated.
On our way back, Anil ji proposed, “Govind ji, let us go to our karyalay, let me offer you some delicious Poha”
During our drive to party office, the phone calls continued, often from ministers seeking consultation, each call demonstrating what a capable and principled leader he was. I had already started feeling guilty about taking up so much of his time.
Once we reached the party office, he invited me to sit in his room. I assumed that he would have a separate cabin and followed. I entered a 12 ft. by 12 ft. room, furnished with a small, single bed, a desk, a chair and three bookcases full of books. It dawned on me that this person, who had granted 5000-acre land for the project and practically ran affairs of a large state like MP, was actually living in this small room in the party office with all his belongings. All that he had, after being 20 years in politics.
I was not shocked though, because I knew, Anil Madhav Dave . . . Swayamsevak Hai.
We all have heard about previous generation leaders, like Deendayal Upadhyay, who did not listen to his radio because his license had expired. We thought perhaps the God has stopped making such people anymore. This encounter with Anil ji once again reminded me that thousands of such men of integrity are being nurtured by Sangh, Who were now leading at all levels in various walks of life, including politics. ‘Swayamsevak Hai’ is the identity and the life’s mission for them. I have read about them, but it takes an experience like this to have it etched in your mind forever.
Anil Madhav Dave had been a social activist since his college days, he connected with the Sangh and then dedicated his whole life to Sangh work. He was a Vibhag Pracharak and later, was given the responsibility of BJP organization in Madhya Pradesh. He became a Member of Parliament in 2009 and a Union minister of State for the environment in 2016. He has done tremendous work in Narmada conservation. The environment has been his passion. If you google him, you will not find much about his life; as he neither had a personal life beyond Sangh nor he ever put a name tag on all the monumental work that he had accomplished in 40 years. ‘Swayamsevak Hai…’ was the spirit with which he worked, till he breathed his last on 18th May 2017. He left behind a will that simply stipulates not to erect his monument in any way or form.
He said, “Just plant some trees, protect a water resource if you love me.”
Then he adds, “But while doing that please refrain from giving my name to any such activity.”
Can one imagine a politician, a minister saying such a thing? But I am not surprised because I have seen that ‘Anil Madhav Dave… Swayamsevak Hai’