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Congress claims BJP scrapped river inter-linking project on poll loss fears

Surat, May 22, 2022- Terming the decision to call off the Par-Tapi-Narmada river interlinking bid a “mere gimmick”, and “a lollipop” to mislead voters, the Congress on Sunday said that the BJP government scrapped the project, fearing losing one-third of the tribal seats in the upcoming Assembly elections.

The opposition party also alleged that once elections are over and if the BJP does better in this tribal belt, they will resume the project.

The Gujarat government on Saturday scrapped the Par-Tapi-Narmada river-linking project, which had attracted the wrath of tribal community in the state.

Addressing a press conference, Congress MLA Anant Patel said, the protest against the river inter-linking project will continue and a Maha Sabha will be called at Vansda of the Navsari district on May 27.

In 2017 elections, out of nine assembly seats in five districts — Surat, Navsari, Tapi, Dang and Valsad, Congress won five seats and BJP four. The ruling party, however, later got two Congress MLAs to resign and in the bypolls, the BJP won both the seats, changing the electoral scenario in its favour.

Patel said that the BJP has realised that this time tribals are not going to give in and it will cost it dearly in the upcoming elections and that is why they have dramatically announced the cancellation of the project. He demanded a white paper and referendum on the project. He said, till his demands are met, tribal movement in protest of the project will continue.

“There are two major issues troubling the tribals. First, they will lose their land and livelihood. Secondly, many of them will be rehabilitated, huge forest land will go in canal construction. The project will have its impact of wildlife in the region. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) and its adverse findings have not been shared with the tribals, stakeholders.”

The BJP has hit back saying the project is in the larger interest of the society and the state. Tribal Development Minister and MLA from the Gandevi constituency Naresh Patel said, the project would have served the water needs of the parched area, but considering the interest of the tribals in the area, the government has decided to cancel it.

“All dams in the state were constructed and developed during the Congress regime. They too are aware that every good project will leave few people displaced, lands will be acquired, but they are opposing for the political reasons,” Naresh Patel alleged.

The Minister also agrees that though the project is in the works for the last 30-40 years, till date perfect DPR was never prepared. So no question of white paper and referendum arises.

However, Anant Patel said: “The teason not to trust the ruling party is that a month ago, the state government announced that the project is on hold. They celebrated the announcement at eight places in south Gujarat in a big way. How can one trust such a government?”

This is not the first time tribals are against irrigation or river interlinking projects, said Hanif Mehri, senior journalist from south Gujarat. Citing an example of Kelia dam on the Kharera (Kaveri) river in Vansda, he said when this project came up, these people were against it and had protested. Similarly when the Madhuban dam was constructed on Daman Ganga river in Khanvel, the Union Territory of Dadra Nagar Haveli, tribals had protested against the project.  (Agency)

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