The issue of non-allocation of Narmada water to farmers during the summer season and rooting out “corruption” within the government seem to be among top priorities for first-time MLAs, who took part in a swearing-in ceremony of the 14th Gujarat Legislative Assembly on Tuesday. Incidentally, five MLAs, including two ministers — Purshottam Solanki and Vibhavari Dave — remained absent.
At the ceremony which lasted for almost three hours, oath was administered to the MLAs by protem speaker Dr Nimaben Acharya at the Sabarmati hall of Swarnim Sankul-1 that houses the chief minister’s office. An alternate arrangement for the swearing-in ceremony had to be made as the renovation work of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly is still under process.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani was the first to be sworn in at the ceremony that began at 12 pm. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel was the next to take oath, followed by cabinet ministers, ministers of state and MLAs. “Purshottam Solanki could not attend the swearing-in ceremony due to a wedding in the family while minister for women and child welfare, Vibhavari Dave, is in London. MLA Jagdish Panchal is also out of station,” Bharat Pandya, BJP spokesperson, later said. Fisheries minister Solanki had earlier publicly expressed his displeasure over allocation of portfolios.
Among the Congress MLAs who did not attend the ceremony include Gyasuddin Sheikh and Mahesh Patel. “Sheikh has gone for haj while Mahesh Patel had a social event in his family to attend,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi. He added that MLA Ashvin Kotwal, who was not seen at the event earlier, arrived late and took oath.
While most of the newly elected MLAs chose to take the oath in Gujarati, there were six MLAs who took oath in other languages. BJP MLAs Arjunsinh Chauhan and Suresh Patel took oath in Sanskrit, while Congress MLA Brijesh Merja and BJP’s Purnesh Modi took oath in Hindi. BJP’s Manishaben Vakil and Congress MLA Jawahar Chavda took oath in English.
After stepping out from the swearing-in ceremony, OBC leader from the Congress party, Alpesh Thakor, said, “I have taken the oath for ensuring that the people of Gujarat get their rights. I will like to request the state government to refrain from engaging in politics over distribution of Narmada water. In north Gujarat, Kutch and Saurashtra, where the BJP has lost (several seats), the water is not being given. This is unfortunate. You have promised to give water till March 15 and if you do not abide by it in the next 48 hours, then all the MLAs from north Gujarat will take out a rally and gherao the chief minister’s residence in Gandhinagar”
Claiming that the water level in the Sardar Sarovar Dam after monsoon had reached 130 meters, which was more than 121 feet last year, Thakore alleged that the water was being sold to the industries, depriving the farmers and common people of the state.
Narrating his experience of swearing-in ceremony, Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani said, “Just as I stepped out after taking oath, Class-IV employees in the sachivalay told me that every month Rs 25 lakh is illegally deducted from their salaries. On record, the salary (of each employee) is shown as Rs 9,576, while the money deposited in their bank account is shown as Rs 5,850 and if Rs 1,200 of the provident fund is added, there is still a gap of Rs 2,500… This is the kind of corruption the fake Ram bhakts in this government have been indulging in.”
“I will not only bat in the assembly, but will also keep fighting on the roads and raise issues of health and education in Vadgam, water of Mukteshwar dam and minimum support price for farmers,” Mevani added.
Similar voices could be heard from other opposition MLAs who took their oath on Tuesday. Congress MLA Himmatsinh Patel from Bapunagar (Ahmedabad) said, “There are a lot of issues faced by the people in the urban areas. The issues of safe drinking water, poor condition of roads, jobs, education need to be voiced as these are issued the ruling BJP has been ignoring for the last several years. There is lop-sided development even in a city like Ahmedabad.”
Asking the Congress party not to misguide the people of Gujarat, state BJP president Jitu Vaghani, after taking his oath said, “There has been a clear mandate for the BJP and we will ensure that we will continue to provide progress and development in the state.”
According to official sources, the MLAs who could not attend the swearing-in ceremony, will be sworn in by the protem Speaker on a later date.