Gujarat Polls

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel after a meeting at the Gujarat BJP headquarters Kamlam in Gandhinagar Aug. 5, 2016. The Election Commission is expected to announce the dates of the Gujarat Assembly polls Oct. 25. (IANS photo)

GANDHINAGAR — Amid widespread speculation that the Election Commission will finally declare the Gujarat Assembly poll dates Oct. 25, the state government continued its last-minute announcements of welfare schemes and various sops to woo voters before the model code of conduct comes into play.

According to sources, the Gujarat elections might be declared Oct. 25 and the possible polling dates could be Dec. 10 and 14, while the last day for filing nominations was likely to be Nov. 28. The Election Commission had already announced while declaring the Himachal Pradesh polls that the counting of votes in both states would take place Dec. 18.

However, when asked officially about the election dates, Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer B.B. Swain told IANS that "I don't have anything to say about it. My lips are sealed on this matter."

The Gujarat government, meanwhile, has been announcing schemes in a panic mode. In the last 22 days, there have been 22 major welfare announcements from the Bharatiya Janata Party government – either at the Center or the state.

The BJP government has lately been showering the Gujarati public with hordes of special attractive announcements like interest-free agriculture loan of up to Rs. 3 lakh to farmers, minimum support price of Rs. 900 for groundnut, Rs. 100 bonus on 20 kg of cotton, formation of 16 new Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation units and the inauguration of passenger service from Ghogha to Dahej, joining the east and west coasts of the Gulf of Khambhat.

On Oct. 24, in a bid to woo the angry fixed salaried workers who have long been demanding pay revision, the state government announced a hike of Rs. 250 daily allowance, 11 holidays, a 40-day maternity leave and Rs. 2 lakh death insurance for employees working in the Sachivalaya, various boards and corporations as well as other government offices.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel announced a waiver on the 18 percent Goods and Services Tax on micro-irrigation equipment. This expense of around Rs. 77.64 crore will be borne by the state government.

The state government also announced a 50 percent hike in the incentives given to Accredited Social Health Activists workers, who have been holding demonstrations at various levels for the past many days against the government. On an average an ASHA worker earns around Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 2,500 per month. The government also will be disbursing them two saris or dress annually.

On Oct. 23 the government also announced the much-awaited appointments to various vacant posts of various boards and corporations in a bid to woo communities. The most striking appointment was that of the rebel MLA from Congress who defected to the BJP, Balwantsinh Rajput. After his loss in the Rajya Sabha elections, he has been given the key position of chairperson of the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation.

Besides him, the government also filled crucial positions of chairpersons of the newly-formed Gujarat Rajya Bin Anamat Varg Aayog (Gujarat Non-reservation Category Commission) and the Gujarat Rajya Bin Anamat Varg Shaikshanik ane Arthik Vikas Nigam, (Gujarat Non-reservation Category Educational and Financial Development Corporation).

These bodies were formed after the BJP government's negotiation with the Patidar social and religious institutions and leaders, along with Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti and other agitating groups. These positions were given obviously to Patidar faces, Hansraj Gajera and B.H. Ghodasara.

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