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Amid Poaching Row, MP Govt Shuts Down BJP MLA's Iron Ore Mine for 'Violating' SC Orders

File photo of Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath. (Photo: News18)

File photo of Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath. (Photo: News18)

Sanjay Pathak, who owns the iron ore mine, was a former Congressman who ditched the party and joined the BJP and went on to serve as a minister in the erstwhile Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.

Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh government on Wednesday ordered the closure of an iron ore mine owned by BJP MLA and mining baron Sanjay Pathak, said to be a key figure in the poaching row in the Congress-ruled state.

The administration in Jabalpur district, where the mine is located, ordered the closure of the facility for allegedly violating a Supreme Court ruling, officials said.

The mine belongs to M/s Nirmala Minerals, a company owned by Pathak, a former Congressman who joined the BJP and served as a minister in the erstwhile Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.

"Yes I have passed the order banning M/s Nirmala Minerals's operations in two areas in Sihora with immediate effect," Jabalpur Collector Bharat Yadav said.

The mine is spread over Agariya and Dubiyara villages in Sihora tehsil, some 50km from district headquarters.

"The leaseholder (the mining firm) of khasra (survey) No 1093 and khasra No 628/1 has failed to prove in last six months that an order passed by the Supreme Court on March 3, 2019, banning mining on (forest) land, does not apply to his operational area," another official said.

"So the collector today banned Nirmala Minerals from carrying out mining operations," he said and confirmed the mine in question belongs to Pathak.

The BJP MLA has named the company after his mother Nirmala, he said.

Following the SC order, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), on whose jurisdiction the mining area falls, on June 7, 2019, approached the Jabalpur district collector for its implementation.

Three days later, the district collector banned mining operations of Nirmala Minerals in Sihora, the officer said.

But on August 13, 2019, the collector stayed his own order on advice of the state advocate general following a review application received in the matter, the said.

In a late-night political drama, the Congress claimed the BJP took eight MLAs to a hotel in Haryana as part of a conspiracy to topple the state government.

The BJP has denied the Congress charge that it was attempting to poach MLAs to topple the Kamal Nath government.

According to sources in the Congress, Pathak was one of the key figures allegedly involved in efforts to convince a section of MLAs to change sides.

Pathak, son of former Congress leader Satyendra Pathak, is the MLA from Vijayraghogarh in Katni district.

He was the richest candidate during the 2013 Assembly elections with declared assets worth over Rs 226 crore.

They said Pathak has a good rapport with several Congress MLAs, including cabinet ministers who were once his colleagues in the now ruling party.

In the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly, the Congress has 114 MLAs, followed by the BJP with 107. The simple majority mark in the house is 116.

Four Independent MLAs, two lawmakers of the BSP and one of the Samajwadi Party are providing crucial support to the Congress government. Two seats are currently vacant.