It was a losing battle and last month former BJP sarpanch Kantibhai Rathod of Hirapur in Sanand taluka along with seven other farmers finally caved in.
Rathod and others sold their ancestral farm land to Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) for nearly Rs. 56 lakh per acre.
This deal ended the last of the protests against the acquisition of fertile land for an auto-engineering hub spread across 2,600 hectares, adjoining the famed Tata Nano plant.
The story of how Nano landed in Sanand, 25 km from Ahmedabad is now a corporate legend but the story of acquisition of land by the state government adjoining Nano plant and the crorepati farmers is not yet over.
Ahead of the assembly polls, in Sanand, the BJP stronghold, a section of farmers are feeling let down by the acquisition of land and many others are now struggling to find their feet in the new economy. But, they may not be quite ready to ditch Modi yet.
“I didn’t want to sell my land but the government left us with no alternative. I am a crorepati today but I have lost ancestral land where we grew multiple crops — rice, jowar, wheat. It was hard work but the only work we know,” said Rathod.
He is now wondering where to invest money, once his compensation of R4 crore comes in and how to make sure that his 15-year-old son Kisan doesn’t get wasted.
Many of the farmers, who sold their land from seven other villages — Hirapur, Gokalpur, Charal, Siyawada, Bol — to GIDC much earlier and raked in lakhs have frittered away their compensation. “Not one person in my village has been hired by the plant, they mostly use labourers from UP and Bihar,” added Rathod, sitting outside his new house.
The narrow dirt track that leads into this village is lined by newly built houses on both sides with swanky fences. Hirapur also boasts of 85 Mahindra Bolero jeeps.
Lalji bhai Shankarji, another farmer who sold his land to GIDC, told HT, “There is development but more for industry and not for us farmers. Because of Narendrabhai, we got good money for our land but lost our livelihood.”
Many will not agree with Rathod or Shankarji. Ashraf Pathan from Rasoolpura, a farmer-turned-builder is richer by Rs. 40 crore after he willingly sold his land to GIDC.
Today, he is all praise for Modi, calling him ‘Vikaspurush’ of Gujarat and wishing him the chief ministerial chair again.
Rathod himself hasn’t quit the BJP despite actively participating in agitations against the state government for the last three years, including planning a protest against Modi (this was wound up the night before with police clamping down on the agitators).
“I can’t switch my party loyalty. No one will respect me if I do that. In any case, Modi will get elected again,” he says in a resigned tone.
Predictably, this time too the battle for Sanand will be fought on caste lines, with rebel candidates playing a significant role.