ALLEGING that Agriculture, Farmers’ Welfare and Cooperation Minister Ranchhod Faldu, who hails from Jamnagar, has failed to address the issues of the local farmers and unemployment among youth, despite many companies having their plants here, Hardik Patel — who recently joined Congress — on Wednesday once again expressed his desire to contest the Jamnagar Parliamentary seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and work on these problems. This is for the second time in as many days that Patel has expressed his wish to fight the Parliamentary election from the constituency, comprising Jamangar and neighbouring Devbhoomi Dwarka districts, which is dominated by the Patidar community.
Addressing a press conference in Jamnagar, the Patidar quota stir leader-turned-politician said the agriculture minister is a native of Kalavad taluka of Jamnagar district and lives here, but has failed to address the farmers’ complaints of inaccuracies in resurvey of their agricultural land. “Resurvey is a huge issue right from Devbhoomi Dwarka district to Dhrol and Jodiya talukas in Jamnagar. Farmers are fed up and apprehensive that they would pass on disputes and not their ancestral land to their sons. The minister has also not been able to declare his own taluka as the one affected by scarcity of water and fodder. Like many other parts of the Saurashtra, Kalavad taluka was also facing scarcity of water and fodder due to poor monsoon, but the state government had not included it in the official list of the affected talukas,” Patel alleged.
The state government had initiated the resurvey of revenue land, including agricultural land, in 2017 for updating the records. It was first of its kind exercise since independence where maps were to be plotted by using satellite imagery. However, the farmers, especially from Saurashtra, raised objections to the survey results, saying they were strewn with errors. Consequently, the state government had decided to halt promulgation of land records for 6,000 villages in August last year. Farmers in Devbhoomi Dwarka and Jamnagar were at the forefront of protests against the alleged inaccuracies in the survey.
Without taking any names, Patel said that a number of companies had their plants within the limits of the Jamnagar Lok Sabha constituency, yet unemployment was high among the local youth. “I would like to fix it. I want to serve the people of Jamnagar. I would like to ensure that local youth get job in the companies in Jamnagar. I would even do dabangai (flex muscles), if required, to make this happen. We shall force the companies to adhere to the norms specified by the state government with respect to reservation of jobs for the local people. Secondly, I would like to solve the problems of the farmers. I would also focus on health services and make plans for hospitals. And lastly, barring the sessions of Parliament, I would spend maximum amount of my time among the people here. I am confident, people of Jamnagar will elect a Congress candidate this time,” said Patel.
Major oil refineries of Reliance Industries Limited and Essar Oil, besides a cement factory of Tata Chemicals are some of the big industrial complexes located at Jamnagar and Devbhoomi Dwarka districts.
The 25-year-old politician last year had resigned as the head of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), which had spearhead the agitation by the politically and economically-influential Patel community demanding recognition as Other Backward Class and benefits of reservation in government jobs and institutes of higher education. He had formally joined the Congress on March 12 in presence of the party national president Rahul Gandhi.
He said that the problems faced by the farmers and youth were one of the reasons he wants to fight his maiden election from Jamnagar. “I have been visiting Jamnagar for quite some time. I have toured talukas in and around Jamangar. Over the last eight-nine months, resurvey of land and unemployment have turned into big issues here. I have always talked about the farmers and youth and therefore, I have chosen this district,” said Patel.
Patel hails from Viramgam in Ahmedabad taluka, but has become a prominent face of the Patidar community in the state since he formed the PAAS and launched the quota stir in July 2015. He has been touring parts of the state where Patidar community is concentrated since.
When asked if the people of Jamnagar would accept him since he was not a native, Patel said: “When we launched the social movement, we had not done it for my taluka only. People of entire Gujarat benefited from it. I have full confidence that if a good man, a good leader comes forward to serve the people of Jamnagar, they will elect him. Unlike (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, I would not say ma Ganga ne muje bulaya hain (mother Ganga has called me). I am proposing to serve the people and have taken the first step in this direction,” he said.
Congress MLA from Khambhaliya seat in Devbhoomi Dwarka and other local leaders of the party were present at Patel’s media interaction. Later, Patel toured Devbhoomi Dwarka in the evening and met the party leaders.
Jamnagar Parliamentary seat is presently represented by Poonam Maadam of the BJP.
Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said that the process of selecting the candidates for the April 23 Parliamentary elections in the state was on. “Hardik is a young leader. He has been fighting against (the) anti-farmer and anti-youth policies of the BJP government. The parliamentary board of the party will declare the names in due time,” he said.
Sources confirmed that Patel is the front-runner for the Congress ticket for the Jamnagar seat, should the cases filed against him during quota agitation not create any legal problem.