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BJP, Congress trying to cash in on their flood relief work in north Gujarat

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Voters in north Gujarat’s Banaskantha, the worst affected district, have mixed feelings about the BJP government’s relief efforts.

Banaskantha (Gujarat): Relief and rehabilitation of the flood-hit people in Gujarat is something both the BJP and the Congress are trying to cash in on in this election.

Voters in north Gujarat’s Banaskantha, the worst affected district in the devastating floods in July, have mixed feelings about the BJP government’s efforts to help them during the crisis.

Of the nine seats in Banaskantha, the BJP had won four against five bagged by the Congress in 2012. However, the BJP tally was reduced to three after it lost the Deesa seat in the 2014 by-election.

North Gujarat, which votes on 14 December, is perhaps where the BJP is most vulnerable.

Madka village in the Vav assembly constituency was badly hit by the floods with two people being killed and livestock and property also suffered. Villagers here, however, say the state government and the local MLA, Shankar Chaudhary, “helped them promptly, thus minimising damage”.

“The government stepped in quickly. We were given food packets, cattle feed and the water was drained out. I suffered a loss of around Rs 2 lakh with my crops being destroyed, and I have received Rs 1 lakh from the government already,” Baba Bhurya, a castor farmer from the village, told ThePrint.

“Everything had got destroyed but we have picked up the pieces and now my crop is flourishing again. I want BJP to win in this election since it helped us,” he added.

Village sarpanch Gumansingh Chauhan claims the government released funds of around Rs 10 crore for rehabilitation of Madka village.

“Our MLA had received information about the floods early on and set off the process of rescue. Although we couldn’t save the two people, a lot of damage was prevented because the government began evacuating people and took them to safer places,” Chauhan said.

BJP, Congress trying to cash in on their flood relief work in north Gujarat
Khanpur village | Photo: Ruhi Tewari

Khanpur village in Tharad assembly seat still has traces of flood water. Amitbhai Chaudhary, a farmer, says the village suffered badly but the government “was quick to respond and help”.

“We vote for Modi. Nothing else matters. Look at how he helped us during the floods. We have got more than what we lost,” said Ashokbhai Mali, a villager in Khanpur.

Nathabhai Chaudhary, however, disagreed. “We got no help. I suffered so much loss. The government gave me nothing,” he said.

“BJP only helps people who have some clout, not poor people like us. I think Congress will stand by us,” Chaudhary added.

Nagla village, however, is another story. It still reels under the after-effects of the floods and residents are very unhappy with the government. A frail, visibly troubled Deviben Thakor was sitting outside her dilapidated hut.

“Look at the condition of my house. My cattle died, I had no food and my house was submerged. All my belongings were destroyed,” she said, narrating her ordeal.

“What did I get from the government? Not a penny of compensation. It’s election time now so they come asking for votes. But it’s only Congress for me,” Deviben added.

The BJP is hoping to cash in on what it believes is prompt rehabilitation after the floods. The party has also highlighted the fact that Congress MLAs from the region spent nine days in Bengaluru, instead of helping the flood-hit people, because of the Rajya Sabha election fiasco.

“BJP workers explained to us how the party came to our rescue. Congress MLAs were enjoying in swimming pools of resorts somewhere while we were suffering,” said Mewabhai of Khanpur village.

Shankar Chaudhary, Gujarat’s minister of state for health and family welfare, said he is confident the party would increase its tally in the region.

“Last time we did not win enough seats in the north but this time there is a Modi wave. This isn’t an election any candidate is fighting. The public is fighting this election. They saw how the BJP government stood by them during the crisis,” Chaudhary told ThePrint.

“Over 9,000 people were rescued and this was possible because of Modiji’s help. The entire government machinery was deployed here. People of this area have seen and appreciate that,” he added.

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