Gujarat Chief Secretary JN Singh recently ruffled a few feathers when he was quoted in a national daily that “farmer distress” and lack of “employment among youth” were “two factors” that “came out very strongly” during the recently-concluded assembly elections in the state and these sections “expressed their distress, their anger by voting against the ruling party.”
Though the BJP won the Gujarat assembly election consecutively for the sixth time, its seats declined to 99 from 115 in the last election in 2012. Congress posed a tough challenge to the ruling party and won 77 seats. The electoral losses especially in Saurashtra region have been attributed to farmer distress and unemployment.
Singh, a 1983-batch Gujarat cadre IAS officer, was quoted from his speech during the inauguration of Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) branch office in Ahmedabad.
In an interview to Firstpost, Singh denied that he attributed the ruling party’s loss of seats to challenges that came during election, adding that things had to be “seen in context and not in isolation.”
He added that the newly formed Gujarat government is working towards a model that could provide best remunerative prices to farmers for their produce.
A national daily has quoted you as saying in an event of the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) that “during the elections two factors came out very, very strongly...farmer distress and employment...expressed anger by voting against the ruling party”. How far is it true that due to these two factors mentioned by you, the rural people voted against the ruling BJP government in the recently held Gujarat assembly election?
No, not at all. It’s not true that the two factors I had mentioned affected the voting pattern; I didn’t say that. Things have to be seen in context rather than selectively or in isolation. I was speaking during the inauguration of a regional office of AEPC in Ahmedabad. I said certainly two challenges came up before the government during the election time – one, issues related to rural and agrarian sector and the other was employment.
I referred to these two areas in context of the opening of the AEPC office, as the AEPC’s role is to boost garment sector, which will help in creating employment. Second, it leads to utilisation of cotton, which is one of the major cash crops in Gujarat. The entire value chain in the textiles sector would get completed as AEPC deals with garments manufacturing and exports. This will lead to actualisation of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of ‘Farm-to-fibre-to-fabric-to-fashion’ and ultimately to foreign.
As a top government functionary, should you have referred to election and voting pattern while making your statement?
The discussion wasn’t on the election per se. I had referred to the ‘election’ to point out the challenges that the government has been facing. The Gujarat government has been dealing with these challenges successfully, like procuring groundnut at minimum support price (MSP).
Do you think that due to the agrarian crisis and rising unemployment, the BJP failed to get the number of seats it had aimed for?
No. Had that been the case, the ruling party wouldn’t have won for the sixth time in a row. The win shows the reaffirmation of people’s faith in the policies of Narendra Modi. There are several factors and electoral arithmetic that takes place at such times; more so for a party which has been in power for over two decades.
What plan does the Gujarat government have in order to address the challenges before it?
In the farm sector, the Gujarat government has already procured various crops like groundnut and cotton on MSPs. Nearly 90 lakh quintals of groundnut have been procured at MSP. The issue is of providing remunerative prices to farmers, which has now improved in Gujarat. The state government has increased cold storage capacities to ensure safe storage to perishable crops during bumper production.
The government is working towards having a model similar to the Haryana government to provide MSP to farmers. We’re expanding irrigation facilities.
There is tremendous focus on the hospitality industry. Gujarat is emerging as a health tourism destination. We’re coming up with policies to boost these sectors.
The newly formed government is giving a thrust to employment generation. Garment industry is a key area, which we’re expanding and this will help in generating large-scale employment.
Finally, what is the ‘Gujarat model’ of development that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP often refer to?
It is about good development of large industries along with ancillaries and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) on one hand and double-digit growth in agriculture by increasing farm produce on the other. The government has been providing 24 hours electricity and irrigation facility to farmers. The focus has been on best utilisation of resources. Along with this, an emphasis is also placed on aspects of the social sector like health, education and drinking water supply to provide best services to the urban and rural people.
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Updated Date: Dec 31, 2017 15:38:49 IST