Gujarat Chief Secretary J N Singh Thursday said “farmer distress” and lack of “employment among youth” were “two factors” that “came out very strongly” during the assembly elections in the state this month and these sections “expressed their distress, their anger by voting against the ruling party”. He was speaking at the inauguration of the 12th regional office of the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) on the premises of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI).
Singh told the gathering: “Another thing… which has come out during the elections… two factors came out very, very strongly. One was farmer distress, farmers all throughout Gujarat, particularly in Saurashtra… they have expressed their distress, their anger by voting against the ruling party. Why has it been so? There is some sort of feeling that things are not remunerative… and second factor is employment, employment among youth… employment all around.”
“I think this is an initiative… this AEPC coming here, and the boost to the garment sector… once we go into garment sector in a big way, it takes care of employment substantively. We wish that Gujarat should be a major garment hub… from all over Gujarat, unemployment should be taken care of,” he said.
In the assembly elections, the ruling BJP won 99 of 182 seats, down from its tally of 115 in 2012. The Congress won 77 seats. The BJP’s major losses were in the Saurashtra region where it got only 19 of 48 seats while the Congress got 28. In 2012, 30 of the 48 seats were with the BJP and the Congress had 15.
The electoral losses are being attributed to distress in the farms, especially over issues such as crop loans and low minimum support price (MSP) for groundnut and cotton. Singh said that if the garment sector receives a boost, “there will be greater consumption, greater utilisation of our own cotton and our own man made fibres (MMF), then weaving will also get a boost… when the engine moves, it takes (along) the entire trade, so engine at times becomes the garment sector when it moves… it takes the weaving sector, it will take the spinning sector and it will take the farm sector also”.
Recalling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘farm to fibre to fabric to fashion to foreign’ initiative, Singh said: “We have taken care of fibre to fabric… that also to some extent is happening… and fabric to fashion, that is what AEPC and others will do… and help Gujarat textile and garment export in a big way.”