By Madhulika Gupta
The all-important political test in the Gujarat state elections only saw the BJP returned to power with a very narrow mandate. While affluent urban centres like Ahmedabad, Surat and South Gujarat voted heavily in favour of BJP, the party lost out on the rural areas. The BJP loss in these areas is being attributed to the government’s Kerosene-free movement in the rural Amreli region. Recently it seems that the party has been anxious to correct its mistake.
Fishing community calling for a reprieve
The fishing community forms an integral section of the rural diaspora in Amreli. However, BJP’s Kerosene-free scheme has jeopardised the community. Since the firt conceptualisation of the plan, the fishing community has cried out for a reprieve. The fishing boats that are used to brave the gushing waves of the Arabian Ocean are traditionally run on Kerosene engines.
The Government gives subsidy for the use of kerosene. However, there have been reports in the region of the subsidy not being released, sometimes for four years at stretch. In addition to this, the quota for each boat has been brought down from a comfortable 250 litres to a measly 30 litres per boat. There is also a powerful mafia in the region that hacks the kerosene supplies and sells it on a black market where a bottle of kerosene costs much more. In situations like these, the members of the fishing community have no option but to buy their kerosene off the black market.
In a bid to alleviate the air pollution caused by burning kerosene and to eliminate the black market, the BJP government has made efforts to curtail the use of kerosene. The government wants kerosene users to switch to diesel, however they have made no effort to help with the transition. With diminishing kerosene supplies and sky-rocketing prices due to the policy, the fishing community is having more than just a hard time.
Worsening agrarian crisis
The region is also experiencing an agrarian crisis, in particular, groundnut and cotton farmers. This is being attributed to poor rainfall patterns, but the government is also being blamed. The years between 2014 to 2016 saw a very little rainfall in this region, as a result of which the harvest was poor. However the year 2016-17 saw substantial rainfall, due to which the harvest was so rich that the overabundance caused prices to nosedive.
Now, the input cost to farmers from pesticides and fertilisers has increased from a meagre Rs 150 to a staggering Rs 300 per farmer. Also, the long-standing issue of the intermittent power supply, a lack of fencing services by the government to protect crops against wild animals and faulty irrigation services, have pushed farmers to the brink. The Minimum Support Price (MSP) for affected crops that the government promised to help farmers has not yet been applied. The government promised an MSP of Rs 4,500 per quintal for groundnut, however, the crop is only selling for only Rs 3,250.
Losses in rural and coastal sectors
After the BJP failed to deliver on these fronts, the party had no choice but to fight the last campaign on the personal popularity of the Prime Minister in his home state. The campaign turned from an issue-based campaign to one that centred on personality and sectarian issues.
While BJP won the trust of the Businessmen and Trader community, the party could barely do anything to appease rural communities. Although Party President Amit Shah had predicted that the party would win 150 seats, losses in rural and coastal regions reduced the score to less than 100. As the party gears up to correct its mistakes, with its sights set on the 2019 Lok Sabha election, it will essential to watch how the party attempts to repair its damaged relationship with rural and coastal voters in Gujarat.
Featured Image Source: Pixabay
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius