Rajkot Moderate to heavy rainfall in Saurashtra-Kutch region, though late, has come as a huge relief for Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the run-up to polls.
Continuous showers that lashed eight politically decisive districts in the region, which account for 58 Assembly seats, has led to overflowing in several lakh check dams and fresh inflow in reservoirs. It has also eased the fodder scarcity in the region that had rattled the Modi government since the region also happens to be a bastion of his bete noire and Gujarat Parivartan Party president Keshubhai Patel.
It will also blunt the edge of the Congress’s charge that Modi had been holding grand functions at a time when the Saurashtra-Kutch region was reeling under scarcity.
The chief minister himself was barely able to hide glee while speaking at a function in Mehsana district on Sunday. “Now that we have downpour, both notes and votes will be raining. Many thought this was over for Modi, who had not seen drought in his 10-year-old rule. But God is with Gujarat. Some even wished for drought and prayed for it, but finally it is raining,” the CM said.
Fodder scarcity, which had triggered migration from Saurashtra-Kutch, was the biggest cause of concern for Modi. In mid-August, soon after the entire region was declared scarcity-hit, he visited each and every district to take stock of the situation. Unavailability of adequate fodder had given his opponents, including GPP and Congress, much ammunition against his government.
After the recent rainfall, fodder has been sown over 1 lakh hectare. Prospects have also brightened for farmers who missed out on groundnut and cotton sowing season and instead opted for other cash crops like maize and corn.
Patel, who wields considerable clout in Leuva Patel-dominated districts like Junagadh, Amreli, Jamnagar, Rajkot and Bhavnagar, had focused on unavailability of water and fodder. “Despite spending so much in Narmada project, people in Saurashtra do not have water to drink,” he had said.
But following fresh inflow, drinking water crisis in major cities of Saurashtra like Rajkot, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Porbandar, Amreli and Bhavangar has eased. For instance, three local reservoirs — Bhadar, Aji-I and Nyari-I, that supply drinking water to Rajkot Municipal Corporation now have water levels that can last at least up to two months. In November, additional Narmada water is expected to arrive.
Increasing water level in various dams in Saurashtra-Kutch means the Modi government will have to manage drinking water situation only for a month before the election scheduled in December even if there there is no rain from this day on.
More than 60 of the total 104 dams in Saurashtra have already received 5 to 30 feet of fresh inflow even as heavy rainfall is predicted for the next few days. By November, three major Narmada project-related water schemes, including connecting Dhrangadha canal with Morbi pipeline, Dholi Dhaja with Ratanpar and Navada pumping station that will provide additional 500 MLD water in region, are likely to be completed.