iconimg Monday, July 06, 2015

Smruti Koppikar, Hindustan Times
Rajkot, December 09, 2012
Bharat Vasavda is a house-keeping supervisor in a modest Rajkot hotel. Part of his job is to see that not more than two buckets of water are used to clean each room. Back home — in Dudhsagar slum — Vasavda struggles to find 12 litres of drinking water for his six-member family. “We beg for water here,” he said.

In the heart of the city, the Vyas family has an overhead storage tank. But the supply lasts only 20 minutes on a good day. Mostly, the supply is on alternate days.

Deeper into Saurashtra, in Junagadh and Jamnagar districts, water becomes a luxury. And typically, access to it depends on a family’s address, income and caste.

All seven districts of Saurashtra, including Rajkot and Porbandar, face moderate to acute water crises. And the situation can only get worse. Civic officials have warned that the current reserves will last two more months.

The average water storage at the end of this monsoon was an alarming 17.86% in Saurashtra. Farmers’ suicides hit the headlines like never before.

Water scarcity may deal the BJP a hard blow in Saurashtra, which, along with the equally dry Kutch, will vote for 54 seats on December 13.

“This is a ‘water election’ the way Delhi saw an ‘onion-price election’ some years ago,” said a BJP office-bearer in Rajkot.

Aware of the sensitivity of the issue -- and its possible exploitation by the Congress and Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party — CM Narendra Modi has announced a water revolution in the BJP manifesto.

But the people are far from being mollified.

“Modi hasn’t given us what we need the most,” raged Babubhai Modedara of Kutiyana. “My town has regressed because of lack of water. Why should we vote for him?”

“This has the potential to damage Modi’s final tally of seats. We are indeed seeing an anti-Modi sentiment around these areas,” says political analyst Kirit Ganatra.

Away from Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, Modi gets more flak for his neglect of the water issue in Saurashtra-Kutch than for his anti-Muslim stance.