Gujarat Elections: Water crisis, drug seizures - key polling issues in Kutch

Gujarat Elections: While the BJP has emphasised national security promises, the opposition Congress has questioned the failure of the state and the Centre from stopping drug trafficking.

Gujarat Elections: Water crisis, drug seizures - key polling issues in Kutch

KUTCH: As the Pakistan bordering Kutch district of Gujarat goes to polls next month, drug hauls worth thousands of crores of rupees, water crisis in this arid region and sporadic incidents of communal clashes have become major election issues in the area. Last year, in a major drug haul, around 3,000 kg of heroin worth nearly Rs 21,000 crore was seized at the Mundra Port in Kutch, the country's largest district which shares land and marine border with Pakistan.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been trying to project it as national security being in safe hands with the saffron camp in power, the opposition Congress has questioned the failure of the state and the Centre from stopping drug trafficking.

There have also been a number of other cases of drugs seizure in Kutch in the recent past.

"The question is not about how much was seized, but how this (heroin seized last year) consignment came under the radar. What about other such consignments which might have passed without being noticed? The people of the state want to know what steps have been taken to prevent such incidents," state Congress leader and spokesperson Lalit Vasoya told PTI.

The Congress, in its campaign, especially in the bordering areas, has been harping on the issue of drug menace in the state and the Kutch region being used as a safe passage by drug traffickers.

Refuting the allegations as baseless, BJP's Kutch district media in-charge Satvik Gadhvi said the drug seizure is an example of the fact that his party, unlike the Congress, never compromises on the issue of national security.

"For the BJP, the nation comes first, unlike the Congress for which the vote bank is first and foremost. The seizure proves that the nation and the state are safe," he said.
Elections for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held on December 1 and 5.

Kutch, which goes to polls in the first phase on December 1, has six Assembly constituencies - Abdasa, Bhuj, Rapar, all bordering Pakistan, and Mandvi, Anjar and Gandhidham.
In 2017, the BJP won four of these seats, while the Congress bagged the minority-influenced Abdasa along with the Rapar constituency.

But, the MLA from Abdasa switched over to the saffron camp in 2020 and later won the seat on the BJP's ticket.

As per the 2011 census data, Kutch had 76.89 per cent Hindus and 21.14 per cent Muslims, with Abdasa and Bhuj Assembly constituencies having a considerable minority population.

While Gujarat had been in news for the post-2002 Godhra riots, Kutch, which was reeling under the effect of the 2001 earthquake, remained insulated from communal politics until a few years back.

But it is not the case this time as there has been a simmering communal divide in various parts of Kutch over multiple issues, including sporadic incidents of such violence reported in the last two years.

In August this year, a murder led to a communal clash in Madhapur village in Kutch. In January last year, there was a clash between members of two communities in Kidana village during a rally for collection of funds for the Ram temple construction.

"Kutch has always been peaceful despite whatever is happening in other parts of the state. But the situation is not the same now. There is an atmosphere of mistrust among communities, and political parties are trying to gain from it," 68-year-old fruit vendor in Bhuj town Parwez Sheikh claimed.

But, Kutch BJP district unit leader Ghanshyam Thakkar told PTI that his party has maintained communal harmony in the area.

"The Congress and the AIMIM are trying to disturb the communal harmony of the area," he claimed. "We will never allow this to happen," he added.

According to district Congress leaders, the entry of new players, like the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), has further made the poll fight interesting in the region, with minorities now having options other than the grand old party.

The AAP is contesting in all the six seats, while the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM is contesting in two seats. Some local BJP leaders, on condition of anonymity, claimed the saffron camp will gain from the AAP and AIMIM contesting the polls.

"In Bhuj and Abdasa, if the AIMIM and AAP respectively manage to cut even 15,000 opposition votes, it would benefit us," a BJP leader said.

The opposition Congress this time hopes to make a clean sweep against the BJP in the district.

Kutch district Congress President Yajuvendra Jadeja said the BJP knows that 27 years of anti-incumbency is taking a heavy toll on it, and they are using everything at their disposal to win the elections.

"From using the AIMIM and the AAP, they are doing everything to divide the opposition. But it won't yield any results. These two parties are just B-teams of the BJP," he claimed.
However, the AAP and the AIMIM district leadership have dubbed such allegations as "baseless"."We are not the B-team of any party. The truth is that neither the BJP nor the Congress has done anything for the Muslim community of Gujarat," AIMIM candidate from Bhuj Sakil Sama said.

Another key issue in the region is the water crisis, especially getting supply from the Narmada river.

The Kutch Branch Canal is a branch of the Narmada Main Canal (NMC), which originates at Kevadia and is supposed to provide water to the Mandvi area.

In other areas, such as Abdasa and Bhuj, the work for a pipeline for the canal connecting it with the NMC is yet to start, thus leaving the entire region yearning for water.

Locals depend on deep borewells, rainwater or government tankers for water supply in the region.

The local BJP unit agreed that "water crisis" is a major issue, but blamed the Narmada Bachao Andolan for the constant delay in the Sardar Sarovar Project.

"The entire project has been delayed due to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. We are confident that once the elections are over, the work will start on a war footing to set up the infrastructure to bring in regular water supply in the region," BJP MLA from Abdasa Pradhyuman Sinh Jadeja told PTI.

On the other hand, the Congress claims water crisis in the region is the biggest example of the BJP's administrative and political failure.

"Even after 27 years, if you have to blame others for failing to provide water in the region, then BJP leaders should quit politics and sit back at home. This is the biggest example of BJP's administrative failure," Yajuvendra Jadeja said.

Senior AAP leader Ankita Gor said if voted to power, the party would ensure drinking water facilities in each household of the region.


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