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17671Is 2014 elections forcing govt to bow before farmers? Activists say CM doesn’t want a large-scale protest to emerge from the state fearing it will dent his image., DNA, Ahmedabad, 29 October 2013

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    Oct 28, 2013
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      Is 2014 elections forcing govt to bow before farmers?

      Activists say CM doesn’t want a large-scale protest to emerge from the state fearing it will dent his image

      DNA, Ahmedabad, 29 October 2013

      Ahmedabad: Farmers in the state seem to be having an unusual success as far as protest against land acquisition by the government is concerned.

      First, the Narendra Modi-led government bowed down to the wishes of farmers and withdrew 36 villages from the proposed Mandal-Becharaji Special Investment Region (SIR) that originally covered 44 villages. And now, it has dissolved the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA). Farmers had opposed acquisition of land under KADA to develop tourism facilities in the area.

      Is it because the government has finally come around to understand farmers’ point-of-view, or is it nervous about earning their ire ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, on which rides the prime ministerial ambitions of the chief minister? If activists are to be believed the government has not give up its anti-farmer stand.
      “The government is only buying time. Otherwise it would have completely accepted their demands. Take the case of Mandal-Becharaji SIR, we demanded complete withdrawal of the SIR but only 36 villages were removed from the list,” said Trupti Shah.

      She further added that it was not just the ‘concern for the farmers’ that is making the government come around. “With the 2014 elections, it would affect the image of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate if there is a large-scale protest by farmers in his state,” said Shah.

      The government’s softening should be seen in the light of the fact that there isn’t any precedence of the Gujarat government giving in to the farmers demand. Even in case of the Nirma cement factory protest, farmers were forced to knock on the court’s door to get them heard. In case of Mithivirdi nuclear plant, the government is yet to talk to the protestors.

      But in a first-of-its-kind gesture, a group of ministers ­ including finance minister Nitin Patel, revenue minister Anandiben Patel and forest and environment minister Ganpat Vasava ­ met 145 villagers who had opposed land acquisition for KADA. Earlier in the case of the Mandal-Becharaji SIR, the chief minister himself had met the group of protesting farmers.

      Sagar Rabari, one of the activists who are actively involved in both the Mandal-Becharaji and KADA protests said that the government is worried about the 2014 elections.

      “We believe that if the BJP performs well in 2014 elections they may very well go back on their promise. The government has never bothered to listen to farmers. Its functioning has been very autocratic as far as land acquisition is concerned. Right now it wouldn’t do well for their image to see a large-scale protest emerging against the development model of the state,” said Rabari.

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