After BJP candidate of Valsad K C Patel, Bardoli BJP candidate Prabhu Vasava had to face anger of tribals of Tapi district, whose farming lands are being acquired by the government for the Tapi-Par river linking project. A video of angry farmers confronting Vasava at a public meeting on Wednesday went viral. In it, the MP is seen trying to defend himself but then had to cut short his speech and leave.
Earlier K C Patel had to face the anger of the villagers of Tumbi village of Dharampur taluka in Valsad district where a BJP worker himself, Manilal Gavli, complained about the lack of development work in the village and the fact that the MP was visiting them for the first time in five years. Patel, along with other BJP leaders left the place hurriedly without responding.
In Vasava’s meeting in Lakhali village of Vyara taluka which falls in Bardoli Lok Sabha constituency of which Vasava is the sitting MP, several farmers came with copies of government circulars, even as one farmer identified as Mahendrabhai asked why tribals were displaced to erect the Statue of Unity of “Sardar Saheb” to which Vasava said, “It has been done after tribals willingly gave their land for the project.”
One BJP leader, Jagdishbhai, also tried to intervene but Vasava told him to remain quiet so that he could answer all the questions of the tribal farmers. Vasava is also heard telling the farmers that the Tapi project had been “scrapped”, in order to calm them down.
Bardoli is where independence leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had launched the farmers’ agitation which earned him the title of Sardar.
Vasava was accompanied by Tapi district BJP general secretary Rajendra Punwar and other local BJP leaders. He told the crowd that he would certainly win the election and stay an MP for another five years. “If you have any problems or issues, you should come to me. Even if you need my presence in your village, you can contact me and I will definitely come to your village to sort out the issues,” he said. To this, a tribal farmer identified as Nileshbhai Gamit, supported by other farmer, said, “There is no development work done in our village and after five years you have come to our village for first time requesting for votes. There are many issues we tribals are facing and the topmost issue is that the government has begun the procedure to acquire farming land for Tapi-Par river linking projects. Our lands and our residences will be snatched away and we will be displaced.”
As farmers began to recount how drone cameras had been deployed to survey their land, and produced the government papers related to the land acquisition, the situation got tense, and the BJP leaders sitting on the dais tried to intervene. But Vasava stopped them. Answering the question, Vasava said, “I know that this is for the first time I am coming to your village after five years. I am elected BJP MP and there are 1,250 villages and 400 taluka panchayats falling in Bardoli seat. After election I have to spend six months going to Delhi, and later after returning, I have to work for the party, so there is not enough time for me. I know that I have come here for the first time, but you have to understand.”
Vasava further added, “Now onwards if anybody comes to your village to acquire your farming land, call me I will definitely come and try to save your land. The government officials can acquire your land only if you farmers are willing”.
After this reply, there was a heated exchange of arguments between the BJP leaders and the affected farmers. Vasava had to cut short his speech and leave the spot after the situation turned tense. Local police stationed there also tried to control the anger of the affected local tribal farmers.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Vasava said, “There were a few farmers — and I suspect that they were agents of the Congress party — that tried to create a disturbance. They raised the issue of Tapi-Par river linking project and about their agricultural lands being acquired for it. I answered them that there is a rule that for any such project if 75 percent of the public are convinced, only then their land will be acquired and if not, nobody will take their land. It is a part of a political game that they have come to make representations. I heard their questions and gave them appropriate answers.”