The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 21-11-2022 | 10:50 pm
“Do you pay wages to a person who has laboured on your farm for harvesting and threshing groundnut, one who has picked cotton and sprayed pesticides on the crop, or to the one roaming around in the village just because he is good-looking? Who do you owe wages,” Lalit Vasoya, the sitting Congress MLA from Gujarat’s Dhoraji Assembly constituency, asks a small gathering of farmers in Vadla village in Upleta taluka in Rajkot district, even as a crowd was building up in nearby Dhoraji town for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public meeting Sunday as part of his campaign for the BJP candidates for the upcoming state Assembly polls.Struck by the question, some men from the gathering respond: “Of course to the one labouring on our farmlands.”Seizing on their words, the MLA tells them: “You are right. You pay to the one who labours on your farm. Similarly, I have toiled for your village for five years. Today, it is time for you to pay me my wages. I have come to seek compensation in the form of votes for the work I have done for you.”Vasoya, a prominent Patidar leader, then reels off details of some of his works – building the village’s internal roads at a cost of Rs10.80 lakh and constructing a burial ground’s compound wall at a cost of Rs 80,000 from his MLA local area development (LAD) fund.To drive home the point that he had “favoured” Vadla with a population of around 1,000 despite having trailed by a few votes in the 2017 Assembly election from the polling booth here, Vasoya says, “MLA gets Rs 1.5 crore LAD grant annually. If I were to distribute this grant equally among 82 villages and three municipalities in Dhoraji-Upleta area as per their population and take into account the LAD suspension for one year due to Covid, I can allot Rs 30,000 to your village annually. That means Rs 1.20 lakh in five years. But paying special attention to your village, I allotted my development fund to Vadla, even at the cost of other villages. Therefore, I have the right to seek votes here.”Vasoya, 60, tells farmers that Vadla was among the 18 villages of Upleta which received excessive rainfall this monsoon but were not included by the BJP-ruled state government for surveying crop damage and compensation. “We called a meeting of people of 18 villages in Upleta, then made representations in Gandhinagar and created a ruckus in the Assembly and ensured that farmers of Vadla get compensation against excessive rain. I had told village leaders that if I fail to get you compensation against excessive rain, don’t vote for me in the election. So, this is how I have worked.”Vasoya, who was the Saurashtra zone convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) which was leading the Patidar quota agitation, was given ticket by the Congress to fight his maiden election from Dhoraji in the 2017 polls, which he clinched by defeating BJP candidate Hari Patel.While campaigning for his 2017 bid, Vasoya had announced that he would use his MLA salary for welfare of people and not for personal use. While campaigning for his re-election as a Congress candidate in 2022, he gives an account to his voters in this regard.“Over the past five years, I got a total of Rs 49.50 lakh as salary… Using that money, I organised 34 health screening camps in Dhoraji, Upleta and Bhayavadar areas where free diagnoses were done and medicines distributed. Twelve extremely poor patients were operated upon free. We ran a community kitchen for 21 days during Covid-19 outbreak and fed daily 5,000 initially and then 14,000. From the balance, we installed ceiling fans in anganwadis, gave school uniforms to poor girls studying in government schools, and sent nutrition kits to villages for malnourished and stunted children,” he tells Vadla residents.While campaigning in nearby Sevantra village, Vasoya tells people that their drinking water woes are going to end soon as the Venu-Moj group drinking water supply project to supply treated drinking water to 48 villages of the area is nearing completion.“Under the Nal Se Jal scheme of the Central government, the state government has launched one pilot project each in south Gujarat, central Gujarat, north Gujarat and Saurashtra region. Under the project, sumps will be constructed in villages and piped water will be available even if the feeder line fails for a couple of days,” Vasoya says.“There are many BJP MLAs from Saurashtra. Even ministers are from areas near us. But I used my rapport with then water supply minister Kunvarji Bavaliya to good use despite his switch to the BJP and brought the pilot project to Upleta so that a sump of drinking water is constructed in your village too,” the MLA tells the villagers, adding he had shared the details of the project with them on their WhatsApp accounts.He also tells Sevantra residents how he and his team drove to Surat and arranged 21 luxury buses for people who wanted to return to their native villages in Upelta and Dhoraji talukas during the Covid lockdown in 2020. “We even sent our personal vehicle to help people reach their homes in their villages,” he claims, crediting himself for the community health centre in Upleta being upgraded to a 100-bed hospital at a cost of Rs 16 crore.In Kerala, a village on the bank of Moj river, Bachu Vamrotiya, a village leader, tries to corner Vasoya by complaining about the difficulties faced by farmers to cross the river during the monsoon and how his village has been left out of the crop loss survey on account of excessive rain. “Despite being an Opposition MLA, I have got approved roads and bridges worth Rs 350 crore in Upleta and Dhoraji. I have already allotted Rs 2 lakh for a causeway across Moj river in your village,” Vasoya replies.“But farmers would have got Rs 65 lakh compensation had our village been included among those affected by excessive rain,” Vamrotiya continues. Pacifying him, the politician says, “Wouldn’t I like to claim credit for getting this done? The fact is, the BJP government has excluded a few villages due to narrow political consideratons. Therefore, we have filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court, demanding Kerala and four other villages should also be surveyed and farmers be compensated.”Vasoya barely mentions any state or national leader of the Congress party during his campaign, with Dhoraji being scheduled for polling in the first phase on December 1. “I have to cover 82 villages and three municipality areas for campaigning in few days. I hardly get around 10 minutes to talk during which I barely manage to give account of work we did over the past five years in this constituency,” he tells The Indian Express.Vasoya targets the BJP over price rise and its candidate, Prof Mahendra Padalia, the Rajkot-based former chancellor of Saurashtra University who is a native of Paneli village in Upleta taluka. Calling the BJP candidate an “outsider”, he asks a gathering in Dumiyani village, “Does anyone of you know him? Have you ever seen him?” As the crowd responds negatively, he goes on: “It is our misfortune that every time, BJP fields an outsider in this seat despite having strong local workers. BJP brings people from Rajkot so that the party doen’t have to face people after election. You can easily stop me in the middle of the street but where will you go to find him?”Hari Patel is also a resident of Rajkot and so is Praveen Makadia, the BJP leader who was elected from this seat before Vasoya in a bypoll.The Congress MLA later tells the Express that an Opposition legislator could not rely on excuses that because he is from an Opposition party the works in his constituency could not be done. “You have to raise your voice when needed but you should also have the humility to bow down for the sake of your people. I personally requested agriculture minister Raghavji Patel to include 10 villages in the damage survey. He agreed to include five,” he says.Vasoya also quashes buzz about him cosying up to the BJP. “I meet former minister Jayesh Radadiya and Porbandar MP Ramesh Dhaduk at community events because we are from the same community. I am also a big farmer leader from Saurashtra. Then why is it that media reports that Vasoya is drifting towards the BJP and not Radadiya warming up to Congress.This is because the BJP knows that they won’t be able to defeat me through ballot so they want to create confusion in minds of people by spreading such conspiracy theories,” he charges.
NEW DELHI: Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge on Tuesday hit out at the Bhartiya Janata Party for relying heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for every election. Addressing a rally in poll-bound Gujarat, Kharge compared PM Modi to 'Ravan', evoking strong reaction from the BJP. Unable to take the heat of Gujarat election, pushed to the fringe, Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge l… https://t.co/dtloqR36kc— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) 1669696217000“We see your (Modi’s) face in corporation elections, MLA elections or MP elections, everywhere… Do you have 100 heads like Ravan?” Kharge said at a rally in Ahmedabad. “I’ve been seeing that votes are sought in the name of Modiji, be it municipality elections, corporation elections (or assembly elections) … Ask for vote in the name of the candidate … is Modi going to come and work at the municipality? Is he going to help you in times of your need? Kharge said. “If the BJP believed it was winning in Gujarat, then Modiji, who should have been in Delhi working for the Central government, would not have been forced to tour the alleys of Gujarat, visiting every assembly segment … He is going to every ward of Gujarat. He is going, Shah is going, four-five other chief ministers are going, more than 40 Union ministers are going … Because they got to know people are against them and they can see it," Kharge added. The BJP reacted strongly to the Congress president's remark and slammed Kharge for insulting the Prime Minister. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, "Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge called PM Modi 'Ravan'. Using such language for a PM, for the son of Gujarat isn't appropriate. It is condemnable and shows Congress' mindset. It's an insult not just to PM Modi. It is an insult to every Gujarati, to Gujarat." Kharge is non-Gandhi-Nehru-family chief of Congress & so making such remarks (Modi 100-head Ravan) for limelight. W… https://t.co/005v94c2AU— DeshGujarat (@DeshGujarat) 1669705989000BJP leader Amit Malviya said, “Unable to take the heat of Gujarat election, pushed to the fringe, Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge loses control over his words, calls Prime Minister Narendra Modi “Ravan”. From “Maut ka Saudagar” to “Ravan”, Congress continues to insult Gujarat and it’s son.” Today is the last day of campaigning for the first phase of elections in Gujarat. In the first phase on December 1, voting will be held on 89 out of the total 182 seats. Voting for the remaining 93 seats will be held on December 5 in second phase. Watch 'Do you have 100 heads like Ravana?' Mallikarjun Kharge's latest jibe at PM Narendra Modi
Mansa assembly seat, which is part of the Mahesana parliamentary constituency, seems to be a neck-and-neck battle between the BJP and the Congress, with poll outcomes partly decided by people voting along community lines. This year’s battle will be between JS Patel from BJP, Thakor Babusinh Mohansinh from the Congress party, and Bhaskar Patel caste Jayanti Patel aka JS Patel who has been associated with BJP since its Jana Sangha days, belongs to the Patidar community, while Congress candidate Babuji Thakor, is from the Thakor community and is in the transport business. Of the 2.28 lakh voters in Mansa assembly constituency, Patidars account for approximately 46,000 votes, Thakors 42,000, OBCs (Other Backward Classes) 34,000 Rajputs 29,000, Chaudharys 22,000, and Scheduled Castes 17,000. The remaining belong to minority communities, the Scheduled Tribes, and other castes. The question, however, remains that will the poll politics extend beyond caste and address the pressing issues among citizens. Speaking with the residents, the region seems to be riddled with several major problems including poor education infrastructure, poor roads, and slow economic development. Piyushbhai Panchal, social worker, says, “Mansa is truly underdeveloped in the education sector. Students have to go to other cities for higher education.” Rasikbhai Patel, businessman, states that local employment is less, since there’s only 1 Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) in the region. No major company has entered the industrial complex in the last ten years. The newer generation who is educated has to go to Ahmedabad for employment opportunities. Rakeshbhai Rahi, teacher, says “traffic is a big issue in Mansa. Due to illegal construction, traffic has become a big problem. Stray animals including cows and dogs also add to the traffic. In addition, negligence by the municipal corporation has posed the problem of potholes and gutters on roads.” The BJP had won consecutively from the Mansa seat from 1995 till 2007. Although Mansa was traditionally a BJP stronghold, the saffron party has been losing the Mansa assembly seat since 2012. Interestingly enough, Amitbhai Harisingbhai Chaudhary of the Congress who defeated the local BJP heavyweight D.D. Patel by 8,028 votes in 2012, later defected to the BJP and contested in 2017 from Masa on the party's ticket. However, he lost to the Congress candidate, Sureshkumar Chaturdas Patel, by a thin margin of 524 votes. In fact, BJP’s tally in Gujarat had dropped to a two-decade low of 99 in the 182-member legislative assembly in 2017. What makes this loss even more surprising is that Mansa is Amit Shah’s hometown, located in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar district, where he spent 16 years of his early life and where extended family members still reside. The union minister is often touted as BJP’s “election machine” and so the expectations lay heavy when the constituency in question is Shah’s own hometown. Having said that, this time with a new candidate and a fresh approach, Shah is indeed involved behind the scenes to bring BJP a seventh consecutive win in Gujarat. Elections will be held on 89 seats in the first phase on December 1 and on 93 seats in the second second on December 5. Counting of votes will be taken up on December 8.
Chhotubhai Vasava is contesting from Jhagadia (File)Jhagadia: The residence of seven-time MLA and Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) founder Chhotubhai Vasava in Vasna village of Gujarat's Bharuch district is unusually calm with very little activity, quite odd for someone contesting Assembly polls that are less than a week away.This time, Chhotubhai Vasava is contesting as an independent from his traditional Jhagadia seat in the district, from where he has won seven times in a row.The candidates of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), however, are slugging it out, hitting the ground, meeting voters, and seeking to wrest the seat held tightly by the septuagenarian leader for the last 32 years."I don't need to go out now. I don't have to buy votes. My workers are campaigning for me, visiting villages. I know people in every village and their issues," the 78-year-old leader told PTI.In the past three decades, Congress as well as the BJP have ended up as runners-up in the battle against Vasava. The Congress won this seat, reserved for the tribal community, in 1985 - nearly four decades.Be it any party's wave, Vasava held on to his bastion firmly, contesting either as an independent or a candidate of Janata Dal, Janta Dal (United) or BTP.But this time things are different, say his rivals.They look determined to snatch the seat from the ageing patriarch who holds sway in the tribal belt of Gujarat and Rajasthan.Two chief ministers - Bhagwant Mann (Punjab) and Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh), belonging to the AAP and BJP, respectively - have already campaigned for their candidates, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi also canvassing for the ruling party in this constituency speaks of the importance attached to the seat.But in the run-up to the next month's polls, there was a twist in the tale. Vasava's son and BTP president Mahesh Vasava entered the fray from Jhagadia as the party's official candidate. Soon later, his father jumped into the poll arena as an independent, revealing the fissures in the family.Finally, Mahesh, the sitting MLA from the Dediapada constituency, withdrew from the contest to avoid making it a father versus son fight. So now, the seat does not have any official candidate from the BTP.This time, the BTP initially tied up with the AAP only to walk out of the alliance."I was never willing to ally with the AAP," Chhotubhai Vasava said.The BJP has fielded Ritesh Vasava (46), a former associate of Chhotubhai.The saffron party is also going all out to win this seat. UP CM Adityanath was among the star campaigners for the party that canvassed for him."PM Narendra Modi will address a rally in Netrang tehsil (which is part of the Jhagadia seat) on November 27," Ritesh said.He said education, health and roads will be at the top of his agenda if he is elected."I have worked with him (Chhotubhai) for 20 years, so I know how he works. The BJP has won the panchayat samitis in Jhagadia, Valia and Netrang (all three tehsils in the constituency), and it will also win this seat this time," he said.The Congress has fielded Fatehsinhbhai Vasava, while the AAP's Bharuch district president Urmila Bhagat is in the fray.Bhagat is seeking votes on the assurances of 300 units of free electricity, Rs 3,000 unemployment allowance and Rs 1,000 allowance to women above the age of 18 years. Plus, the development in the areas of health and education, Bhagat added.But Chhotubhai Vasava looks unperturbed."My support (among the tribals) has not receded," he said.Jhagadia goes to polling on December 1, in the first phase of the two-phased Assembly elections. With 2,58,955 voters, the economic activity of this area is largely around the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC).As one enters Vasna village, the roads are smooth. There are posters of BTP candidate Mahesh Vasava (who withdrew from the race later) in some houses.Barely 100 meters from his residence lives Suresh Vasava, a 27-year-old agricultural labourer and father of three (one son and two daughters). Suresh said there is no water in his locality despite a tap that was recently provided.Suresh said he makes Rs 200 a day by working in the fields of others. He received money to build toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, but it is too small and water is an issue, so he goes out to relieve himself.Near him is 21-year-old Vishal Vasava, who will cast his vote for the first time in an assembly poll. Vishal could not clear his matriculation and works as an electrician in a company in the nearby GIDC and earns Rs 5,000. His main issue is there is no mobile network in his area which becomes a problem in an emergency.They did not specify their voting preference.In Selod village, two friends - Bhavesh Vasava (a daily wage labourer) and Malik Salman (who runs a small eatery in the GIDC), both 28 - do not complain of any major lack of amenities.Bhavesh said he will vote for Chhotubhai, as always.Salman did not specify his voting preference but said the contest is tough as Chhotubhai has been an MLA for the last seven terms and there is a lot of anti-incumbency.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comBack in the main town of Jhagadia, a man, a BJP supporter, who runs an eatery said the saffron party candidate will trounce Chhotubhai, citing anti-incumbency. Featured Video Of The Day"Both Are Assets": Rahul Gandhi Amid Ashok Gehlot vs Sachin Pilot
GIFT City occupies 886 acres between Gandhinagar and AhmedabadIndia's newest financial hub is rising from scrubland near the banks of the Sabarmati river once dominated by marsh birds and grazing buffalo.In Gujarat, just a few glass-fronted towers greet the 20,000 employees of companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and HSBC Holdings Plc who commute in each weekday. Its full name is Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, but it's more commonly known as GIFT City. It occupies 886 acres between Gujarat's capital, Gandhinagar, and Ahmedabad, its biggest city. As of October, bankers managed a combined $33 billion here.What's drawing these companies? An exemption from the many rules and taxes that hamper business and trading in the rest of India. GIFT City is an experiment in free markets nestled inside a $3 trillion economy - one of the world's fastest-growing - that's long been reluctant to let its national currency, the rupee, become a plaything of international investors. The goal is to create a welcoming place where India-centric trading that's moved to Dubai, Mauritius or Singapore can return home.At first, Gujarat seems an unlikely location. On the west coast, it's the ninth-most populous state-and, as a mark of respect for Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in Gujarat, it bans the sale of alcohol, that lubricant for many a financial deal. Narendra Modi started planning GIFT City in 2008, when he was still the Chief Minister, and his ascension to Prime Minister in 2014 allowed him to give the project more policy help and a higher profile. In a July speech to bankers, regulators and executives from India and overseas, he proclaimed that "the vision of India's future is associated with GIFT City."Prime Minister Modi's government has offered an array of incentives, including a 100% tax holiday for a decade to businesses that set up within the hub's International Financial Services Center, or IFSC. Rules are being tweaked to encourage Indian companies to lease ships and aircraft through GIFT City rather than on foreign shores. Foreign universities will eventually be allowed to bypass regulations to open local campuses, and companies can use an international arbitration centre to avoid India's notoriously poor contract enforcement mechanisms.A key concern that the financial centre seeks to address is India's lack of full convertibility of its currency. Converting money into foreign currencies requires cumbersome documentation, and that's pushed trading in rupees and rupee-denominated financial assets to offshore centres that Indian regulators can't monitor. But within GIFT City most of these rules don't apply, enabling onshore trading in key currency derivatives contracts, which can counteract some of the effects that offshore trades have on the rupee exchange rate.Another product has migrated to the financial centre: a popular derivative based on a benchmark gauge of Indian stocks that was traded on the Singapore Stock Exchange. In 2022 the National Stock Exchange opened a cross-border trading link with Singapore - similar to the Hong Kong-Shanghai connect - to allow global investors to trade stock derivatives listed on the Indian market without needing to set up shop in India.Trading volumes have increased since a single regulator, the IFSC Authority, was created by the government in 2020 to streamline approvals and oversight in the special economic zone. In October, average daily turnover on the two stock exchanges in the financial center climbed to $14.6 billion, from $3.4 billion two years before, cumulative derivative transactions by banks jumped to $466 billion, from $22 billion, and cumulative banking transactions rose to $303 billion, from $45 billion."Beyond the shores of India, in some of those centres where India-centric business developed, they are able to notice that something is happening, and things may not be the same in the future," says Injeti Srinivas, the IFSC Authority's chairman. "Business is gravitating toward IFSC."A new international bullion exchange will let qualified jewellers directly import gold through GIFT City, a change from current rules permitting only some banks and nominated agencies approved by the central bank to do so. That loosening of restrictions is set to widen the importer base in India, the world's second-biggest consumer. An aircraft leasing and financing business is operating in GIFT City to tap into the demand of one of the world's hottest aviation markets for new-plane orders. Ship leasing will start soon.In July, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank AGstarted operations in GIFT City. JPMorgan will initially offer clients foreign exchange derivatives and wants to leverage its position as one of the largest suppliers of physical bullion in the country. Deutsche Bank aims to tap the rising number of companies in India that need cross-border banking services, ranging from hedging to financing. (In 2018, Bloomberg LP, the owner of Bloomberg Markets, entered into an agreement to provide capital markets expertise to GIFT City.)"We think the GIFT City policy is a calibrated approach toward internationalisation of the rupee," says Srinivasan Varadarajan, a managing director in global emerging markets at Deutsche Bank in Mumbai. "It is similar in some characteristics to what has been seen in Asia over the last decade."Jaxay Shah, founder and managing director of property developer Savvy Infrastructure Pvt., is among the people betting on this growth. His company, which built the tower that houses Bank of America Corp. offices and the IFSCA's temporary headquarters, has purchased two nearby plots to double its holdings in GIFT City. "When else in my career would I get this kind of smart city, where there is an economic vision and no red tape?" Mr Shah says.GIFT City is the first in India to offer district cooling, an energy-efficient air conditioning system, as well as central waste, water and electricity management. Although it offers beautiful streets and boulevards and pristine sports centres, plus recent additions including a school and a hospital, workers tend to disappear in the evenings, taking electric buses to homes in nearby cities that have amenities such as cinemas and fast-food restaurants.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comSome younger executives in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat, who asked not to be identified because they weren't authorised to comment, say they're often questioned on calls about whether alcohol will be permitted. Multiple policymakers and lawmakers told Bloomberg Markets that they expect authorities will provide yet another rule exemption-to allow licences to buy and consume alcohol. The state government realises it needs to amend its teetotaller requirements to attract residents and ensure the project's success, they say.And that, in a nutshell, is the story of GIFT City: an oasis in which companies can escape rules and bureaucracy. An attempt to lure billions of dollars back to onshore markets. A "sandbox" in which fintechs can play with new products with seamless links to global systems. Perhaps even a vision for India's future.Featured Video Of The DayTelangana Politician YS Sharmila's Car Towed Away By Cops With Her In It
Anant Patel, 45, successfully led the agitation to block the Par Tapi Narmada river-linking project announced in the Union Budget. A former sarpanch who won his first Assembly election in 2017 to become the Congress MLA from Vansda, Patel belongs to the Dodhia tribe. Contesting from the Vansda seat for the second time, Patel speaks about the Adivasi vs Vanvasi debate, how development has not reached the Adivasis, and why joining politics was important for him.PATEL: Adivasi. Rahul Gandhi also said it. When the whole world knows us as Adivasi, indigenous people, a (distinction) is being created that while adivasi means someone from adi-kaal (ancient times), vanvasi means one who lives in the forest… Like Rahul Gandhi said, Adivasis are the original owners of the land. These RSS people, BJP people don’t think like that. They feel that all the resources are in the Adivasi area – jal, jungle, zameen – and how to take these away by calling them Vanvasi.Now the Mumbai-Delhi corridor is also passing through Unai, so is the Bharatmala (road development) project. The Surat-Ahmednagar-Chennai road passes through 23 villages here. All these projects are going past the 14 districts of Adivasis.PATEL: In Kevadia, they said there is so much development and that Adivasis will get employment. But what do they mean by employment? Changing sheets of a hotel room or doing the dishes is employment? We don’t want such employment where the Adivasi has to change the sheets, wash dishes or sweep the floor. Take Saputara, all seven villages were displaced to Navagam, which has no panchayat. So they have no rights to vote for the taluka or zilla panchayat.PATEL: I am not talking about the Congress or the BJP. I am talking about Adivasis. So, do you want to continue the same thing or bring about some change? The Congress at least gave us land. They made us farmers, farm labourers. These people talk about stealing your land… No hotel owner in Saputara is an Adivasi. If you acquire so much land, at least give hotels to 25 Adivasis to run… In these 27 years, the BJP has not done anything good for the Adivasis. In February 2017, they brought in the PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act), but in a weaker form than the 1996 law.How do you say that?PATEL: All the power of the gram sabhas was taken away. They only have the power to decide on timru (used in Ayurveda products) leaves and honey harvesting. Earlier the gram sabha could clear projects that came up on village land; in any police case, what the gram sabha said was final… (Now) in 23 villages, gram sabhas have said they don’t want the Bharatmala project, yet they have finalised it… The Surat-Ahmednagar-Chennai road was to pass through Surat, but because Surat is so developed, they are diverting it via Navsari. They don’t want to disturb the cities.When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his campaign from Kaprada, he said that for him, A is for Adivasi.PATEL: So, should we eat that to survive? What is the meaning of that? A for Adivasi, then A for Adani, and A is for Anant (Patel) too. What is the benefit to us?The PM also said that projects like the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana give opportunities to Adivasis to become engineers, doctors, learn English…PATEL: Is there a single English-medium school in villages except Eklavya schools? They closed 6,000 schools in the name of merging, of which 58 were in Vansda. We took out rallies and did not allow even one to close. There was a secondary school in Kurelia. They have built a compound, a hostel, there is a cook, but the school has not started as there is no teacher….PATEL: Nearly 50,000 families would have got displaced. Not only that our culture, hopes and identity would go. There is a sizeable leopard population (in the area), and Asia’s largest spider species. When the Narmada dam was still to be built, bears would come to the area, but no longer… We worked hard to flatten the hilly terrain for farming, and now will we allow it to get submerged? We have demanded a white paper (on the project).It will always be the case that a water-rich region will provide for an arid area. What is the solution?PATEL: You take water for drinking, we have no problem. But not for industries… Why build Sardar Vallabhbhai statue in Kevadia, evacuate 33 villages? Why break up villages? Why build hotels to develop a place?PATEL: Isn’t Medha Patkar a citizen of the country? If I am doing an andolan (agitation), and a BJP minister comes, should I tell them to leave? This is Bharat Jodo Yatra, it is not under a banner, Rahul Gandhi is just leading it. It is not a Congress yatra.… Anybody who tries to do good for Adivasis, their image is slowly distorted. I don’t know if I will still be alive (by then), but they might call me Naxalite in a few days.After former CM Amarsinh Chaudhary, there has been no tribal leader. Why is that?PATEL: No party allows a (tribal) leader to rise, the Congress included. But so far (in my party), nobody has stopped me from doing anything. I have told them that for me, samaj (community) is first, and the party second. I will not leave the party, but samaj comes first. Were I not from the Adivasi samaj, would I have got a mandate here? I don’t fight from a general seat, that I have to follow what the party says.The Congress had won 17 of the 27 tribal seats last time (two in alliance with Bharatiya Tribal Party), but six of the MLAs defected to BJP. Were you also approached?PATEL: The problem with political parties is that those who get elected, don’t leave their seats till they die. If they leave, only then can youths get a chance. So if you want a party to come to power, this kind of churn on its own is good.PATEL: I became a leader from the party. I believe that any leader, if he wants to do something for their community, be it Hardik (Patel), Jignesh (Mevani) or Alpesh (Thakor), it is very necessary that they join a political party. If the party forms the government, they can get work done. Before I got to the Vidhan Sabha in 2017, I thought it was not necessary that a samajik leader is a (political) leader. But that is not the case. When you reach the Assembly and something wrong happens with your samaj, you can raise your voice… I said this to Jignesh, and only after that did he come to the Congress. I said this to Hardik and also Alpesh… You cannot be two-faced. If you don’t join an andolan (agitation), and demand a ticket in the name of the community and fight on reserved seats, how does that work either?PATEL: The implementation of the 1996 PESA and Schedule 5 (giving special rights), big-ticket projects that damage the environment and cause displacement, Adivasi identity, employment.PATEL: The identity of the Adivasi is the same, he still has his feet on the ground, he still grows paddy. No matter how much I tell my father to sow sugarcane, he will grow paddy, even if it is one bigha… That has not changed even if he follows Christianity. His sanskriti is the same.