The slew of sops announced by the BJP government in Gujarat and the several projects launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi since October 12 when the Election Commission declared the dates for Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and not of Gujarat touched nearly every segment of the electorate like government employees, farmers, Patidars, women, Dalits, traders, youths, covering issues like jobs, health, water availability.
At least 20 such government decisions or announcements were related to Saurashtra region, considered a stronghold of Patidars who under the banner of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) of Hardik Patel have been demanding reservation in jobs and education for the last two years. Among the projects announced for the region covering Rajkot, Surendranagar, Junagadh, Devbhoomi Dwarka and Bhavnagar, includes the inauguration of Rs 615 crore Ro-Ro ferry service between Ghogha of Bhavnagar and Dahej in South Gujarat by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
During this period, the state government took several key decisions to placate the Patidars. Important among them was withdrawal of criminal cases registered against more than 150 Patidars during the 2015 quota agitation. At the same time, the BJP government appointed Hansraj Gajera of Khodaldham Trust, the influential Leuva Patidar organisation, as the chairman of Gujarat State Non-Reserved Class Commission. The commission was formed recently as part of the negotiations with leading Patidar social organisations, including Hardik Patel’s PAAS, to bring an end to the quota stir.
The government, meanwhile, also made appointments to 18 state-run boards and corporations. These are considered as political appointments and one of the appointees was Balvantsinh Rajput who quit the Congress and joined BJP. Another very important segment of the electorate that the government focused during this period was farmers’ community. One of the major reliefs to farmers came on October 16 when Chief Minister Vijay Rupani declared interest free loans for the farmers in the state in the presence of Prime Minister Modi.
According to the state government, the move is likely to benefit over 25 lakh farmers. Similarly, it has also been announced to give additional bonus of Rs 100 on the Minimum Support Price announced for three breeds of cotton. The state government also announced GST waiver of 18 per cent for 8.78 lakh farmers engaged in micro-irrigation that is likely to cost financial burden of Rs 77.64 crore on the state exchequer. The government also declared to withdraw criminal cases registered against 22 farmers of Sanand region in February this year. The farmers’ rally demanding Narmada water for irrigation had turned violent following which the cases were registered against them.
The decisions taken by the government makes it clear that it has tried to appease government employees, as many decisions were taken in their favour. Some of the them include compassionate jobs to direct descendant of safai karmacharis, implementation of seventh pay commission benefits to employees of 105 municipalities, salary hike of teaching and non-teaching staff of government aided schools, Diwali bonus of Rs 3,500 for almost 35,000 Class IV employees, House Rent Allowance (HRA) of 21 months for 21,000 Gujarat State Road Transport Services Corporation, transport allowance, additional casual holidays and more maternity leaves for contractual workers in the government sector and 50 per cent hike in incentives for 40,000 Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers.
It was also during the last 14 days that a number of Garib Kalyan Melas were organised in different parts of the state where assistance worth crores of rupees were distributed to the poor. The government also implied provisions of controversial provisions of the Disturbed Areas Act in various parts of Vadodara and Surat. At the same time, Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel laid the foundation stone of the big-ticket Surat Diamond Bourse project worth Rs 2,400 crore in Khajod of South Gujarat.