THE situation all over Gujarat today has to be seen to be believed. The whole province has risen as one man against the Government. Old timers say that Gujarat is more agitated today than it was during 1921, 1930 and 1942 movements put together.
There has been firing in as many as 26 places taking its toll of as many as 43 lives even by official reckoning. There has been curfew in all towns of 10,000 and more. Unofficial estimates of property lost exceed Rs 10 crore. It is a situation in which not a single minister can come out of his house and show his face to the public. You cannot find a queue of less than 300 for anything anywhere. All donkeys in Rajkot are bearing the legend: “I am Chimanbhai Patel”. Gujarat today has given a new slogan to the country. It is: “Chor Hatao” – (Remove these thieves). It is a truly revolutionary situation in the upsurge of the masses. Gujarat wil never be the same again.
Gujarat is a surplus state and Gujaratis are well known for their peaceable nature. The crops had been good too. However, when everybody was expecting prices to stabilise, if not actually come down, they started moving up. Two explanations are offered for this mysterious shortage of essential supplies in Gujarat. One is that supplies have been diverted to Uttar Pradesh. Another is that huge quantities of ground-nut are being held back by hoarders for a kill.
Groundnut is as important in Gujarat as sugarcane is in Maharashtra or kendu leaf in Orissa. Many oil magnates feel that they must make up what they spent on bringing Chimanbhai into power. Many of them are afraid that Chimanbhai may not last long and that another toppling operation may make yet more demands on their pocket. They are, therefore, in a hurry to make quick money.
A third factor in the situation is the attitude of the dissidents in the ruling party. Chimanbhai had become Chief Minister against the wishes of the Prime Minister. Her proteges in Gujarat, therefore, are only too eager to see the Ministry toppled. Although only a judicial inquiry can establish their role in the disturbances, it is clear that they are very pleased with what has happened, to the extent that it has besmeared the image of this ministry. It is significant that during his last visit to Delhi, Chimanbhai was not allowed to see the PM.
February 2, 1974.