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Raghavji Patel bucks the trend of agriculture ministers losing polls in Gujarat

Retains his seat of Jamnagar Rural in Jamnagar district, says farmers happy, no stir during his tenure proof

A six-time MLA, Raghavji Patel contested his 11th Assembly election from Jamnagar Rural. (Express photo by Chitral Khambhati)

BUCKING THE trend of incumbent agriculture ministers losing elections in successive BJP governments, Raghavji Patel, the agriculture minister in the outgoing Bhupendra Patel government, managed to retain his seat of Jamnagar Rural in Jamnagar district on Thursday.

Raghavji defeated Prakash Donga, his main challenger from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), by 47,500 votes. Raghavji polled 79,439 votes, while Donga got 31,939, Kasam Khafi (BSP) 29,162, and Jivan Kumbharvadiya (Congress) 18,737.

In the past, agriculture ministers, who would mostly be from Saurashtra, lost elections during the 27-year BJP reign. Parsottam Rupala, agriculture minister in the first Narendra Modi government, had lost the 2002 Assembly election to Paresh Dhanani of Congress from Amreli seat. In 2007, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, the then agriculture minister in the second Modi government, had lost to Kanji Talapada from Dholka Assembly seat in Ahmedabad district. In the 2012 Assembly election, then agriculture minister Dilip Sanghani had lost to Paresh Dhanani of Congress. Chiman Sapariya, the then incumbent agriculture minister had failed to retain his Jamjodhpur seat in Jamnagar district in 2017, while Chirag Kalairya of Congress emerged victorious. This election, Sapariya was defeated by Hemant Khava of AAP, while Kalariya, the sitting MLA, was relegated to third position.

“As Saurashtra is an agrarian region, it is natural for ruling parties to assign the agriculture portfolio to leaders from this region. However, it is a challenging department to handle,” Sanghani, now chairman of Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), said.

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Saurashtra is a water-starved area and availability of drinking and irrigation water is politically sensitive issue in the region. While the power supply to the agricultural sector in the region has seen massive expansion over the past two decades, agriculture ministers often face the wrath of farmers unhappy over the quality of power supplied to their farms. Similarly, arrival of Narmada waters through canals of Narmada dam project as well as through Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation (SAUNI) has augmented supply of irrigation water in the region.

Raghavji had started out his political career as a Congress worker before switching over to the BJP in late 1980s and then to the Rajshtriya Janata Party floated by Shankersinh Vaghela in late 1990s. He then joined Congress only to return to the BJP fold in 2017. Before 2022, Raghavji had contested 10 Assembly elections and won six of them. The 60-year-old had contested the 2017 Assembly election as a BJP nominee from Jamnagar Rural seat, but had lost to Vallabh Dharaviya of Congress. However, Dharaviya quit Congress, resigned as MLA and joined the BJP in 2019. Raghavji won the consequent bypoll and was made a minister in Bhupendra Patel government in September last year.

In a recent interview to The Indian Express, Raghavji had claimed that farmers are happy with the BJP government in the state and had claimed that the fact that no agitation was launched against his department during his brief tenure as minister was its evidence. “I remain in direct contact with the smallest of farmers. I keep meeting them regularly and remain available to them on the phone all the time. I owe my victory to this kind of ethics, policies of government and hard work of BJP workers,” Raghavji said after his victory on Thursday.

First published on: 09-12-2022 at 22:22 IST
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