PM inaugurates ‘lifeline of Guj’
Ahead of assembly elections in the state, BJP stands to reap benefits of the dam around which it has woven its poll campaign
AHMEDABAD: On his 67th birthday on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate the Sardar Sarovar dam built on the Narmada to the nation — 56 years after its foundation was laid by India’s first premier Jawaharlal Nehru.
It will be Modi’s second visit to Gujarat in less than a week after he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Ahmedabad to launch the bullet train project.
This comes exactly three months after the Narmada Control Authority allowed closure of the dam’s sluice gates so that the water rises to its full height of 138.68 metres from the earlier 121.92 metres.
The storage capacity also rose to 4.73 million cubic metres (MCM) from the previous 1.27 MCM.
While four states — Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh — stand to gain from the multi-purpose dam, the BJP is all geared up to reap its benefits in poll-bound Gujarat.
Earlier this month, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani flagged off a two-week long Narmada Mahotsav Yatra in Surendranagar to mark the completion of the dam.
The BJP, which has woven its assembly election campaign around this ‘lifeline of Gujarat’, started celebrating the success of the project in 2014 when the NDA came to power at the Centre.
“Within 10 days of assuming office as Prime Minister, Narendrabhai gave the nod to install gates on the Narmada dam. It became possible because of his strong will and hard work of years. I want to ask Rahul Gandhi as to why a project started by his great-grandfather was not completed during the tenure of his father?” said BJP national chief Amit Shah at a town hall event in Ahmedabad on September 10.
The Congress, on the other hand, has been raising the issue of incomplete canal network. Though the over 500-km long main canal and six branch canals have been completed, work on minor, sub-minor canals and distributaries is still on.
“As our Prime Minister is visiting Gujarat, I want to ask him why 43,000km of the canal network is still incomplete. I wish he explains this delay as the BJP has been in power here for 22 years and he was the chief minister from 2001 to 2014,” Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said.
According to Sardar Sarovar Project officials, the project will irrigate 2,46,000 hectares of land in the strategically important desert districts of Barmer and Jalore in Rajasthan and 37,500 hectares in the tribal hilly tract of Maharashtra.
A special allocation of 0.86 million cubic feet (MAF) of water has been made to provide drinking water to Gujarat’s 131 urban centres and 9,633 villages — which is 53% of the total 18,144 villages in the state.
The foundation of the interstate project was laid in 1961. But its further construction was delayed mainly because of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) led by social activist Medha Patkar over the rehabilitation of the affected families in Madhya Pradesh from the mid 1980s onwards.
As our PM is visiting Gujarat, I want to ask him why 43,000 km of the canal network is still incomplete. I wish he explains this delay as BJP has been in power here for 22 years and he was CM from 2001 to 2014. SHAKTISINH GOHIL, Congress leader