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Of Botad's millionaires and 'power'

November 28, 2007
Reportage & Photographs: Sheela Bhatt

Botad is a small city in Gujarat with a modest voter population of 2.2 lakh. However, the amenities that this city located in the Bhavnagar district boasts of can make many a city feel envy. The city has new roads, about 28,000 mobile users and every household has provision for tap water. The electricity situation here, many say, is "like a dream."

This election, Botad has two millionaires to choose from -- Bharatiya Janata Party's Saurabh Patel (state minister for energy, petrochemicals and planning) and the Congress party's Chandrakant Pithawala.

Known for his Ambani connection (he is a brother-in-law of Vimal Ambani, cousin of Mukesh Ambani), Patel is one of the members of the core group through which Modi implemented his idea of development of the power sector. At the time of filing his nomination papers he declared family assets worth Rs 660 million. His wife Ila (also a member of the Ambani clan) has assets of Rs 430 million. Patel's rival, a businessman, is worth a modest Rs 45 million.

In the last five years, Patel has been striving to put the Gujarat Electricity Board on track.

Going by the figures released by the Modi government, the GEB, which once accumulated losses to the tune of Rs 2500 crore, now makes a profit of Rs 200-300 crore. The Modi government managed to curb power theft, improved technology to plug the leaks during distribution and re-modelled the power allotment by trimming power supply to industry while increasing supply efficiency.

Patel has done his homework -- implementing Modi's vision of uninterrupted supply of electricity in villages. The entire plan was named Jyotigram Yojana and Patel was Modi's executive arm.

However, the Modi government has been unsuccessful in adding new power generation capacity in the last five years. Not more than 400 megawatts has been added in the form of new power plants. Instead, the government is buying power from private players and has spent over Rs 1100 crore to support the Jyotigram plan. In the coming years, the state government will join hands with industrial houses like Tatas, Torrent, Adani, Essar and some Chinese power companies to generate more power.

Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressing a public meeting in Botad on Tuesday

Also read: 'Modi is playing with people's emotions'

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