Bulldozer politics will polarize voters in Gujarat, but at a cost

Ahmedabad, May 14 (IANS) The bulldozer politics started in some parts of the state by the ruling BJP will polarize the voters and reap electoral benefits for the party, but it will come at a cost because it is a double edged sword, said analysts. Even the poor, middle class Hindus have suffered along with the minority community. Just because the affected Hindus are in negligible numbers, the ruling party is taking it as collateral damage, which according to it will have less impact on the election results.
 
Bulldozer politics will polarize voters in Gujarat, but at a cost

Ahmedabad, May 14 (IANS) The bulldozer politics started in some parts of the state by the ruling BJP will polarize the voters and reap electoral benefits for the party, but it will come at a cost because it is a double edged sword, said analysts. Even the poor, middle class Hindus have suffered along with the minority community. Just because the affected Hindus are in negligible numbers, the ruling party is taking it as collateral damage, which according to it will have less impact on the election results.

On Ram Navami, in many parts of the state, processions taken out by Hindus were targeted and stones were pelted by anti-socials. In a swift action the government bulldozed illegal constructions of such anti-social elements. Taking a cue from Madhya Pradesh, the Gujarat government for the first time used a JCB in Khambhat town and demolished butchers shops. Then the bulldozing of illegal constructions was extended to towns like Himmatnagar, Modasa, Kadi, Botad and cities like Ahmedabad, Surat and some other parts.

Every action has a reaction, was the response of Ranchhod Bharwad from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He added that had the anti social and anti national elements not targeted the Ram Navami processions, they would not have had to bear the brunt of the government action.

These illegal constructions have become the hub of anti national activities, such dens need to be demolished for the safety of the Hindu community and the nation's integrity, said Neeraj Vaghela, spokesperson of the International Hindu Parishad.

Vaghela added that the government's action should not be viewed through the lenses of political or electoral benefits, nor should the timing of the action be questioned, what is important is that anti national elements should be taught a lesson once and for all.

His contention was that the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in large numbers are staying illegally in the state, they are into anti national activities. A large number are residing in the Chandola lake area in Ahmedabad, they should all be identified by the state police and deported to Bangladesh, demanded the International Hindu Parishad.

If Vaghela is to be believed, only Muslim illegal constructions are being demolished, but the reality is that Hindus are also suffering because of this drive. One such victim is Parag Patel, whose ice cream parlour on the outskirts of Ahmedabad was demolished. He had pleaded with the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority officials to give time, but his plea went unheeded.

He is not alone. In Kadi town of Mehsana district, 550 properties or a part of the properties were demolished for road alignment and other projects in the last four days. The traders, the majority of them Hindus, requested for more time but the authorities went ahead with their demolition plans.

In Ahmedabad city, a Damocles sword is hanging over 280 properties near Bakra Mandi in Ranip area. Nearly 100 of these properties are owned by Dalits, Thakors and Devipujak Hindus along with Muslims. They will be rendered homeless once the JCB moves in, said Samshad Pathan, an advocate and human rights activist.

Pathan said that human rights and social activists will always stand by the government if it is demolishing illegal constructions by land mafias, bootleggers or gangsters. However, in the name of removing encroachments the government is making the poor and the lower middle class homeless or snatching away their livelihood. It seems the ruling party in this way wants to create an India where there are no poor or low income groups, he added.

This action will benefit the ruling party, because the narrative is being peddled that only Muslims' property is being demolished, which is welcomed by the middle and upper middle classes, he explained.

The state claims it is demolishing illegal constructions, but here people or social activists have to fight to get government land freed from such encroachments. One such activist Chanduji Darbar recently staged a protest outside the Viramgam Mamlatdar office. He has been fighting since 2019 to remove encroachments on government land near the railway station, near Rokadia Hanuman temple. Even after raising the issue at the highest level no action has been taken.

In 2021, then Revenue Minister Kaushik Patel had said that 345 cases were filed for land grabbing and encroachment, some 28.61 crore square meters of land had been grabbed or illegally encroached. Its market value then was Rs 730 crore.

But, beyond criminal investigation there was no news of freeing these land parcels, said sources in the revenue department.

The entire aim of bulldozer politics is to polarize the voters, but this time it is not going to work in the state because people by and large have started realizing that the ruling party is doing this to divert their attention from core issues like unemployment and inflation, said Manish Doshi, chief spokesperson of the Congress.

Challenging the government action on technical grounds, political scientist and economist Hemant Shah called the state action illegal. His point is that if the state which has enacted the Impact Fee law, under which illegal constructions are legalized by charging fees, then how can it demolish illegal constructions.

Shah said the ruling party is selective in targeting illegal properties of the minority communities. This will benefit it in the coming elections, but how far or how much is a big question.

--IANS

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