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Gehlot rules out election alliances, doles out sops

Jaipur, June 8: Ashok Gehlot has ruled out allying with any party for November’s Assembly election.

The chief minister was briefing the media on the just-ended two-day chintan shivir (introspection camp) of the council of ministers aimed at evolving an election strategy.

Asked about the Congress statement at the recent Srinagar conclave saying it was in favour of coalition politics, Gehlot, who has always opposed coalitions, said the party had never entered an alliance in Rajasthan and would not have to do so in future.

The chief minister’s stand must come as a great disappointment to former Union minister Ajit Singh. The Rashtriya Lok Dal leader has been eyeing an alliance with the Congress in areas bordering Uttar Pradesh, despite stating that his outfit would contest all 200 Assembly seats on its own.

The chief minister released a list of 11 areas of development to which his ministers expressed commitment at the shivir. While this was aimed at appeasing the electorate, the Centre’s “poor response” to the plight of the drought-hit was criticised.

Those who have illegally encroached on government land have run into luck, with Gehlot deciding to regularise their encroachment. The chief minister said 75,000 cases of encroachments being turned into shanties had been found “suitable to be regularised”. Of these, 51,000 encroachers had been issued allotment letters while the remainder would be handed letters by August 15 this year.

Even those encroachments “not found suitable for regularisation” as they were on forest land and nullahs would be issued certificates enabling the encroachers to get allotment letters in future.

Gehlot said the token money for the allotment letters issued under the State Grant Act was Rs 5. He said he would waive the lease money, currently in the range of Rs 10,000-40,000. The land will be allotted to the encroacher himself, the chief minister said.

Gehlot and his ministers kept silent on the plight of those who have had to wait for years to get residential plots or houses allotted from official agencies despite being willing to pay for them.

The chief minister said it had been decided to fill the backlog of vacant government posts reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes “within two years”.

He announced the setting up of a review committee headed by the chief secretary for speedy implementation of the 15-point and seven-point programmes for the welfare of minorities.

Gehlot said the government would provide an additional Rs 200 crore to corporate power companies to ensure there was adequate power in the rural areas.

Two new power generation plants, one a lignite-based 125 MW project in Barmer costing Rs 622 crore, and a gas-based plant of 33 MW in Dholpur costing Rs 1,155 crore, would be set up to start generating power in two years, he said. The chief minister said the government had had to step in because the private sector’s participation in the sector had been discouraging.

Gehlot repeated his demand for a Central grant and loan in a 80:20 ratio to enable Rajasthan to introduce crop insurance. Pending a Central decision, the council has agreed in principle to introduce insurance for the kharif crops including maize, jawar and bajra.

The details of the scheme will be worked out after consultations with the insurance company and the Centre.

Gehlot said the Rs 155.68 crore the state had received from the Centre against its demand of Rs 768.20 crore would be distributed as input subsidy to marginal and small peasants before the onset of the monsoon.

It was decided at the shivir to identify in three months which families were below the poverty line. The panchayat raj system would be strengthened by delegating selective powers to panchayat bodies within seven days. Sathins would be appointed in all 9,189 gram panchayats instead of 500 sathins as announced in the budget and midwives appointed at panchayat samiti level. Public libraries and reading rooms would be opened in 4,000 gram panchayats.

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