Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel tells Shishir Gupta her family has no role in an alleged land scam that the Opposition has used to target her and the Prime Minister, while maintaining that her government is “committed” to peacefully resolve a simmering quota movement by the state’s Patidar community.
It has been close to two years since you took charge as chief minister. How has been your experience in sustaining the Gujarat model of development that Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid out?
Narendrabhai had already put in place a system of policy-driven governance. I am committed to steer it further, keep up the pace on the path laid out by him and accelerate it. I have found the day-to-day task of running Gujarat both challenging and rewarding. It has been the goal of my administration to govern in a direct and result-oriented manner. We have also immensely benefited from our synergy with the NDA government at the Centre. In the words of our prime minister, cooperative federalism is a boon for India’s states. My government, like many others, has benefited immensely from close cooperation with the Centre.
What steps are you taking to address demands from the Patidars (Patels) for reservation, one of the biggest challenges your government has faced since you took office?
While my government recognises that the youth affected by the movement may have aspirations and grievances, the methods used by them can’t be allowed in a democracy. My government is committed to a peaceful resolution to this conflict within the framework of the Constitution and law of the land. The Mukhyamantri Yuva Swavalamban Yojana (MYSY) launched in September last year, tries to address many issues faced by today’s youth. The scheme applicable to all economically underprivileged youth irrespective of caste provides aid and assistance for higher education and training for employment. In less than five months, the scheme has disbursed Rs 718 cr in aid to college and school students. Gujarat’s youths appreciate the scheme and have responded to it well.
How do you react to the allegations of irregularities in a land deal in the Gir forest reserve involving your daughter?
These allegations are not only baseless, but politically motivated. Neither I, nor any of my family members have been involved in doing anything wrong or taking any benefit using my position. No one from my family has anything to do with the allocation of land to Wild Wood Resorts (WWR) and subsequent change of ownership pattern in the company. Also, the land allotment was done as per rules and in a transparent manner. Let me tell you that neither my son nor my daughter has ever visited my office.
Gujarat has always been known as a business-friendly state. What measures has your government taken to maintain and build on this perception?
The Gujarat government’s pro-investment approach and efforts to build an industry-friendly atmosphere has brought unprecedented rise in the state’s growth graph. Gujarat not only focuses on attracting new investments, but also prioritises successful conclusion of projects. It is to Gujarat’s credit that the rest of India aspires to emulate our standard of development. Maintaining and further enhancing what people now call the “Gujarat model of development”’ has been a key goal of my administration. Our policies have been validated by both national and international bodies, including the World Bank.
As the first woman chief minister of Gujarat, women’s empowerment has always been close to your heart. What steps have you taken in this area and what has been the impact?
Being the first woman CM of this state is a matter of great pride, and a badge I wear with great honour. A key objective of Gujarat’s “Nari Gaurav Niti” is to enable women to live an independent and self-sustaining life and give them opportunities to participate in the state’s development. We are now in the third year of a gender budget. Other steps include providing 33% reservation to women in all police cadres, increasing reservation for them in local bodies from 33% to 50%, encouraging active participation of women in water distribution work at villages and ensuring economic empowerment of women through Sakhi Mandals. We also have financial incentives for female civil service aspirants. As an important step, special women-only industrial parks are being set up in the state to encourage and empower women entrepreneurs.