For the first time in its history, Gujarat got seven new districts in just over a month. Ahead of the crucial state Assembly elections, Chief Minister Narendra Modi announced the formation of these districts and 17 talukas, carefully carved out for political gains. The new districts, many of them tourist destinations, will come into being from January 26, 2013.
At present, Gujarat has 26 districts and 226 talukas.
Political observers feel the announcement could help Modi woo voters of these largely underdeveloped or backward areas, where Congress is better placed.
For instance, in Chhota Udepur, a new district to be carved out from Vadodara district, and in Mahisagar district to be carved out from central Gujarat districts of Kheda and the Panchmahals, the Congress is relatively in a better position. Both these new districts will be dominated by tribals, who are known for their long-term loyalty to a political party. Ditto for Aravali district, which will comprise parts of Sabarkantha and Banaskantha districts.
Botad, dominated by the Koli community which is second only to Patels in influence in state politics, has also been named as a new district, to be carved out of Bhavnagar district.
In the coastal belt of Veraval, Gir-Somnath has been declared a new district.
In Jamnagar district, where Congress is strong, a new Dwarka district comprising the famous pilgrim destination has been carved out.
Morbi, a hub of ceramic and electronic industries, has also been named as a district. The industries there reportedly donated generously in BJP’s recent election fund-raising drive “Dhan Daan”.
The last district reorganisation was done in 1997-98 when Shankersinh Vaghela was the chief minister. He had carved out Porbandar, Kheda, Patan, Valsad and Navsari districts in his very short tenure as CM, but he got nothing out of it because the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP) that he founded subsequently merged with the Congress.
Just before the 2007 Assembly elections, the Modi government had announced formation of new Tapi district, carved out from Surat district.
State’s Chief Secretary A K Joti, who is also the chairperson of the new district committee, said the idea of creating new districts had been under the government’s consideration for a very long time, given requests from many MLAs and officials.
Joti said the most important criterion in creating new districts was to reduce the physical distance between a district’s headquarters and its other areas so that villagers and other residents as well as district officials did not have to travel long distances.
“Also, after the adoption of Apno Taluko Vibrant Taluko, which focuses on devolution of powers to taluka authorities, we realised there was a need to identify such areas that could be separated from the existing districts for more focused development,” Joti said. “A committee of secretaries will start working on the exact demarcation of new districts soon,” he said.
Meanwhile, state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia said the announcements about the new districts and talukas are just an eyewash to divert the attention of the state government’s failures.