With farmers turning out to be game-changers in the recent Gujarat local polls, the race to woo the agrarian community, comprising mostly Patidars, has started between the BJP and Congress ahead of the 2017 assembly elections.
For the ruling BJP, the countryside has suddenly attained centre-stage in its industry-centric Gujarat development model. Within three days after the rout in rural areas --BJP’s first setback since 1995 -- the Anandiben Patel government took a series of decisions to boost rural development.
The Congress, on the other hand, has threatened to support Patidars in their agitation to free Hardik Patel and 175 other Patidar youths arrested on various charges like sedition and rioting during protests for reservation under the OBC quota.
Announcements like implementation of the National Food Security (NFS) Act, 2013, from next month; a grant of `200 crore to the Agro-Industry Commission for building common facility centres; an allotment of 6,000 acres of land to rural cooperatives at token rates for agriculture, dairy and animal husbandry; and supply of additional Narmada water to over 600 villages to irrigate rabi crop, have been made.
The CM has also stressed faster completion of interlinking of rivers in Saurashtra at a time when the state has seen consecutive years of inadequate rainfall.
“The BJP has always worked for inclusive growth. More measures will be taken to benefit rural areas,” said health minister and government spokesperson Nitin Patel.
With Patidars forming around 14% of most of the rural masses, the Congress has now lent support to the agitation.
“Cases (against agitating Patidars) have been filed for raising voice and putting forward the demands. It should be withdrawn or the Congress will launch protests,’’ said senior Congress leader Siddharth Patel.