Gujarat Elections: Water Crisis, Drug Seizures – Key Polls in Kutch

KUTCH: As the Pakistan-bordering Kutch district of Gujarat heads to the polls next month, drug shipments worth thousands of crores of rupees, water crisis in this arid region and sporadic incidents of intercommunal clashes have become major election concerns in the area. Last year, in a major drug bust, about 3,000 kg of heroin worth nearly Rs 21,000 crore was seized at Mundra Port in Kutch, the country’s largest district that shares land and sea borders with Pakistan.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has tried to project it as national security in safe hands with the saffron camp in power, the opposition congress has questioned the failure of the state and the Center to stop the drug trade.

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

“The question is not about how much was seized, but how this (heroin seized last year) shipment came under the radar. What about other such shipments that may have passed undetected? prevent,” State Congress leader and spokesman Lalit Vasoya told PTI.

Congress in its campaign, especially in the neighboring areas, has hammered on the issue of drug threat in the state and the Kutch region used as a safe passage by drug traffickers.

Refuting the allegations as baseless, Satvik Gadhvi, media director of the BJP’s Kutch district, said the drug seizure is an example of his party, unlike the Congress, never compromising on the issue of national security.

“For the BJP, the nation comes first, unlike the Congress for which the vote bank is first. 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 the polls in its first phase on December 1, has six constituencies: Abdasa, Bhuj, Rapar, all bordering Pakistan, and Mandvi, Anjar and Gandhidham.
In 2017, the BJP won four of these seats, while the Congress won minority-influenced Abdasa along with the Rapar constituency.

But the MLA from Abdasa transferred to the saffron camp in 2020 and later won the seat on the ticket from the BJP.

According to 2011 census data, Kutch had 76.89 percent Hindus and 21.14 percent Muslims, with Abdasa and Bhuj Assembly constituencies having a significant minority population.

While Gujarat was in the news for the post-2002 Godhra riots, Kutch, which was reeling under the effects of the 2001 earthquake, remained isolated from municipal politics until a few years ago.

But this time, that is not the case as a simmering rift has developed in several parts of Kutch over multiple issues, including sporadic incidents of such violence reported over the past two years.

In August this year, a murder sparked a community 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 to raise funds for the construction of the Ram Temple.

“Kutch has always been peaceful, despite what is happening in other parts of the state. But the situation is not the same now. There is an atmosphere of distrust between the communities and political parties are trying to take advantage of that,” 68- year-old- claimed an old fruit seller in Bhuj city, Parwez Sheikh.

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

“Congress and AIMIM are trying to disrupt the communal harmony of the area,” he claimed. “We will never let this happen,” he added.

According to the district congress leaders, the entry of new players such as the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has further made the poll battle interesting in the region, with minorities now have other options than the big old lot.

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

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

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

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

“Through the use of the AIMIM and the AAP, they are doing everything they can to divide the opposition. But it will not bring any result. These two parties are just B-teams of the BJP,” he claimed.
However, the AAP and AIMIM district leadership have labeled such allegations as “baseless”. “We are not the B team of any party. The truth is that neither the BJP nor the Congress have done anything for the Muslim community of Gujarat,” AIMIM candidate from Bhuj Sakil Sama said.

Another major problem in the region is the water crisis, especially the supply of the Narmada River.

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

In other areas, such as Abdasa and Bhuj, work on a pipeline for the canal connecting it to the NMC has yet to begin, leaving the entire region hungry for water.

The local population depends on deep wells, rainwater or government tankers for the water supply in the region.

The local BJP unit agreed that the “water crisis” is a major problem but blamed the Narmada Bachao Andolan for the continued delay in the Sardar Sarovar project.

“The whole project has been delayed due to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. We are confident that once the elections are over, the war-based work will begin to set up the infrastructure to provide regular water supply to the region,” BJP MLA of Abdasa Pradhyuman Sinh Jadeja told PTI.

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

“Even after 27 years, if you have to blame others for not providing water to the region, BJP leaders should leave politics and stay at home. This is the biggest example of BJP’s governance failure,” said Yajuvendra Jadeja.

Senior AAP leader Ankita Gor said that if he came to power, the party would provide drinking water supplies to every household in the region.

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