HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014
Congress, BJP fight it out over housing for the poor
Rajesh Mahapatra, Hindustan Times
Ahmedabad, December 05, 2012
First Published: 01:31 IST(5/12/2012)
Last Updated: 01:34 IST(5/12/2012)

A day after Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi sought to better the opposition’s offer on housing for low-income groups, the Congress shot back on Tuesday, saying the BJP leader was “hoodwinking” people in the state.

Housing has taken the centre-stage in the electoral discourse of a rapidly urbanising Gujarat after the Congress in September unveiled a scheme under which forms were distributed, seeking registration from women in urban areas who wanted to avail of either interest-free or highly subsidised loans for low-cost houses.

The response – the Congress claims 70 lakh women filled the forms — rattled the Modi government, forcing a revamp of the state housing board that hasn’t built any house in 10 years.

It made a special non-budgetary allocation of R1,600 crore, which was disbursed into bank accounts of 4.75 lakh BPL families.

Housing as a poll promise resonates well with voters in Gujarat, where about 42% of the population lives in cities and towns and votes mostly for  the BJP. So much so that the Congress, while releasing its manifesto on Tuesday, displayed replicas of housing blocks that will be offered under its scheme.

“Our sample flats will be ready soon,” said state Congress president Arjun Modhvadia.

On Monday, Modi included an ambitious plan in the BJP manifesto to build 50 lakh houses over the next five years, with a focus on what he described as the “neo middle class” — people who have beaten poverty but need the state’s help to stay afloat.

The BJP said that if elected, its government would spend R33,000 crore on low-cost housing and set up a department under Modi’s direct supervision to execute the project.

This is hogwash,” said  Modhvadia, “They have been in the government for 17 years but did nothing for housing.”

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