Will the death of Gujarat chief minister Chimanbhai Patel affect the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project?
Opponents of the dam feel that without Patel, who expired on February 17 following a cardiac arrest, the state government will be unable to attract the Rs 9,000 crore required for the project. J John, associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, described Patel as a "staunch proponent" of the project and the "main person, the force behind it". John feels the outcome will be clear only when the new chief minister takes charge.
But Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh, an anti-dam NGO, says, "It will certainly be easier to push for things now. He (Patel) was able to project the dam as the saviour of Gujarat and had the regional media under his control. He also drew a lot of investment and political support for the dam."
Other don't expect any change. Ramaswamy Iyer, a member of the special committee constituted by the Union government to examine various aspects of the project, feels the sudden demise of Patel will not really make a difference. "I don't suppose it will affect the dam's future. After all, it is the Gujarat government's policy, not an individual's."
Y K Alagh, the vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University who is known for his pro-dam sentiments, agrees that the death will affect the project negatively because Patel was totally committed to it. However, he asserts work on the dam will not stop. "The Gujarat government will find the money. He (Patel) has shown many ways to find the money. And the concept of mobilising resources for the canal has already been established."
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