The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday released its manifesto for next month's Gujarat Assembly elections, focussing adequately on the agriculture sector this time to keep farmers in good humour and win their votes.
Learning from experience, the saffron party has laid special emphasis on issues relating to farmers in poll-bound Gujarat this time round.
The ruling party promised Rs.10,000 crore fund for agri-marketing infrastructure and a whopping Rs.25,000 crore for expansion of irrigation facilities in South Gujarat, besides setting up two sea food parks in Saurashtra, the blue economy industries corridor.
Agrarian distress, especially in Saurashtra region, among other factors, had led to a drop in the BJP seat tally from 115 in 2012, to a double-digit figure of 99 in the 2017 state assembly elections. There are 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly.
The BJP, when re-elected, will provide Rs 10,000 crore under Gujarat Krishi Infrastructure Kosh to develop Khedut Mandis, modern Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC), sorting and grading units, cold chains, warehouses, primary processing centres.
It will expand the existing irrigation network through projects such as Sujalam Sufalam, SAUNI, lift irrigation projects, micro irrigation, drip irrigation.
With the additional budget of Rs 500 crore, the party will strengthen the Gaushalas here and set up 1,000 additional Mobile Veterinary Units.
The widespread losses to the dairy sector due to the lumpy skin disease has added to the party’s worries as the state has lost an estimated 5,800 cattle.
Earlier this year, farmers in the state protested against inadequate power supply, rallied against low remuneration for certain products and demanded a minimum support price for salt.
It also promised to build seafood parks in South Gujarat and Saurashtra, build the country’s first Blue Economy Industrial Corridor and strengthen the fishing-related infrastructures.
In the run up to next month's assembly elections in Gujarat, the BJP intensified its campaign to ensure that farmers get the full benefits of state and central schemes for the agricultural sector. It is being done to ensure the party does not lose out on support from the farming community like it did in the previous election.
The BJP is relying on initiatives such as the NaMo Kisan Panchayat launched by party president JP Nadda last month to create awareness about schemes for farmers, besides incentives and financial aid to adopt technology such as drones to meet challenges of labour shortages.
In 2017, when the party’s tally dropped to 99 from 115 in 2012, the loss was attributed to several factors. The Patidar agitation and the anger against the implementation of Goods and Services Tax were cited as some of the reasons. But, farm distress, particularly in the Saurashtra region was the most significant.
The condition of farmers in the region had worsened by rainfall deficit and drought that the state faced in 2016 and 2017. There was also some anger against the government for not being able to implement minimum support price for cotton and groundnut produce that time.
Though those issues have now been resolved, problems like water and power shortages still persist in certain areas, coupled with low returns from certain items such as salt, which have the potential to upset the ruling party’s apple cart.
For the tribals in the state, the BJP in its manifesto also promised to enable mobile delivery of ration across all the 56 Tribal Sub Plan Talukas in the state and ensured Rs 1 lakh crore under the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana 2.0 for the all-round socio-economic development of tribals.
The manifesto also promises to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state if the party retained power.
The document released in Gandhinagar by BJP national president J P Nadda, says it will provide free education to girls from KG to PG (kindergarten to post-graduation).
It also assured that the amount of medical insurance coverage under the Ayushman Bharat scheme would be doubled from Rs five lakh to Rs 10 lakh.
Gujarat Assembly polls will be held in two phases -- December 1 and 5 and counting of votes will be done on December 8.
(SUBHASHIS MITTRA is a New Delhi-based Senior Journalist, Freelance Writer, Political Commentator & Public Policy Analyst)