Modi Faces Po­lit­i­cal Drought

The rain gods have de­serted Modi. His ri­vals are ready to ex­ploit the dis­con­tent.

India Today - - INSIDE - By Uday Mahurkar

The rain gods have de­serted Modi. His ri­vals are ready to ex­ploit the dis­con­tent.

Gu­jarat Chief Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s tough­est chal­lenge in a tough elec­tion year could be from the rain gods. That much was made clear on July 17, as po­lice and se­cu­rity per­son­nel pa­trolled a 130km stretch of the Sar­dar Sarovar dam’s branch canal from Dhanki in Suren­drana­gar to Malia in Ra­jkot dis­trict, to pre­vent farm­ers from steal­ing wa­ter. Though the Nar­mada wa­ter is es­sen­tially meant for ir­ri­ga­tion, the state gov­ern­ment has been forced to re­serve it as drink­ing wa­ter for Kutch in north Gu­jarat and Saurash­tra, where Modi is expected to face tough op­po­si­tion in the Assem­bly polls, expected to be held around end- 2012.

It may be too late, though. As Gu­jarat Wa­ter Re­sources Min­is­ter Nitin Pa­tel said, “More than a quar­ter of the mon­soon sea­son is gone, and the state has only re­ceived 150 mm of rain­fall. We should have had 800 mm by now. If the mon­soon does not set in soon, crop yield will be af­fected, but we are geared to tackle any cri­sis, in­clud­ing that of drink­ing wa­ter.”

Only around 270 vil­lages in the state need to be sup­plied drink­ing wa­ter by tankers these days. In the 1990s, when the Nar­mada canal and check dams were not yet in place, the

WITH AQUAR­TER OF THE MON­SOON SEA­SON GONE, THE STATE HAS RE­CEIVED ONLY150 MM OF RAIN­FALL, AGAINST THE USUAL800 MM.

num­ber of tanker- de­pen­dent vil­lages used to be in the thou­sands. The state has 210 medium and small dams, which, this year, are only 33 per cent full, be­low the expected 50 per cent. The crop sit­u­a­tion could be grim if mon­soon doesn’t set in soon. Seventy per cent of the sow­ing is over, and if rains plays tru­ant till the first week of Au­gust, 30 per cent of the crop will wither away. Paddy trans­plan­ta­tion is on hold in large tracts, as there isn’t enough wa­ter for the flood­ing re-

quired for the crop.

The Sar­dar Sarovar dam on the Nar­mada river could be Gu­jarat’s saviour, as the dam, de­spite hold­ing 35 per cent less wa­ter in store than last year, will help the state tackle a po­ten­tial drink­ing wa­ter cri­sis. The prob­lem is more acute on the ir­ri­ga­tion front, with catch­ment ar­eas of the state’s big dams— from Sar­dar Sarovar to Kadana on the Mahi and Ukai on the Tapi, lo­cated in Mad­hya Pradesh, Ma­ha­rash­tra and Ra­jasthan re­spec­tively— hav­ing re­ceived lit­tle rain­fall. There has been some im­prove­ment in the past week, though.

If the mon­soon fails, it could lead to an ur­ban- ru­ral con­flict on elec­tion eve. There are mur­murs of dis­con­tent from some farm­ers in Saurash­tra, who have been de­nied wa­ter from the Nar­mada for ir­ri­ga­tion. This is am­mu­ni­tion for the op­po­si­tion Congress, as well as Modi’s arch ri­val, for­mer chief min­is­ter Keshub­hai Pa­tel, who are al­ready ac­cus­ing his gov­ern­ment of be­ing an­ti­farmer and pro- cor­po­rate.

Most of Modi’s key min­is­ters— Va­jub­hai Vala, Anandiben Pa­tel, Nitin Pa­tel and Sau­rabh Pa­tel— come from ur­ban ar­eas. The gov­ern­ment will have to bal­ance dis­tribut­ing the scarce re­source be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas, with­out up­set­ting the satraps.

Keshub­hai, along with for­mer chief min­is­ter Suresh Mehta and for­mer Union min­is­ter Kashiram Rana, is hold­ing ral­lies un­der the ban­ner of ‘ Pari­var­tan’ ( change) in the state. On July 22, he called Modi “as thick­skinned as a rhi­noc­eros in deal­ing with peo­ple’s prob­lems”. Dub­bing him as a “de­cayed fruit” who should be thrown out, at a rally in Ra­jkot, he ac­cused the Chief Min­is­ter of mak­ing false claims on de­vel­op­ment, and of be­ing “a liar”. Modi and his sup­port­ers have main­tained a dig­ni­fied si­lence so far, but the trio is not miss­ing any op­por­tu­nity to at­tack the Chief Min­is­ter, and a drought will pro­vide an all- ac­cess pass. But as Nitin Pa­tel puts it: “We’re hope­ful there won’t be a drought. If there is one, let’s not for­get that ef­fec­tive tack­ling of drought will fetch us pub­lic ap­pre­ci­a­tion. We are pre­pared to face any sit­u­a­tion.”

SHAILESH RAVAL/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

PO­LICE­MEN GUARD NARMADACANAL TO PRE­VENT WA­TER THEFT

MODI

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