BJP stares at anti-incumbency in Gujarat
The second phase of elections to district and taluka panchayats and municipalities in Gujarat presents a big challenge for the BJP government as the party is staring at the anti-incumbency factor in rural areas where a poor monsoon, crop failure and price rise have been causing distress.
On November 29, voting will be held for 31 district panchayats, 230 taluka or block panchayats and 55 municipalities.
The last two monsoons have been below normal in the State, with cotton and groundnut — the two main cash crops — having been hit badly. Agriculture Department officials say that because of erratic rain this year, the production of cotton is likely to fall by 2.7 lakh tonnes and groundnut by almost 4.5 lakh tonnes.
“Last year was very bad for us and this year is no better. Cotton and groundnut have been affected. Farmers are distressed and that will be reflected in the local elections,” said Ramesh Patel, a farmer in Viramgam town, 70 km from Ahmedabad.
“The Union government did not increase the minimum support price for cotton. All this will affect us in the elections,” said a BJP MLA from Saurashtra.
“We have requested Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and junior Union Agriculture Minister Mohanbhai Kundaria, Rajkot MP, to raise the MSP for cotton but the Centre has not taken any decision,” he said. “During the UPA regime, the then Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, used to slam the Centre over ‘injustice’ to the cotton farmers in Gujarat.”
BJP leaders and workers complain that the State government has not yet declared drought. “The government should immediately declare a drought and initiate relief works,” said a BJP leader from Surendranagar district.
The State government has constituted a ministerial committee to prepare a report on the poor monsoon and its impact .
The Patidar factor too is likely to hit the saffron party. On Thursday, thousands of Patidar members in Ahmedabad and Mehsana districts left the BJP to join the Congress. Ms. Patel has faced protests by Patidar members during campaigning. In Viramgam, the police had to detain the mother and sister of Hardik Patel, leader of the Patidar agitation, ahead of the Chief Minister’s roadshow on Thursday.