GANDHINAGAR: The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project was the focus of an acrimonious debate in the Gujarat Assembly Tuesday with deputy chief minister Nitin Patel dubbing Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani "anti-national" for opposing it.
The high speed rail project between Maharashtra and Gujarat's biggest cities has been caught up in legal battles after several farmers along the route approached courts to stall land acquisition.
The verbal duel occurred when Patel was replying to a query by Congress MLA Akshay Patel on the project.
Mevani said, "Farmers of Gujarat and Maharashtra are against this project. They are not willing to give their land for it. I met such farmers in Maharashtra recently. If they are not willing, why you are snatching their land forcibly?"
Patel said no project would see the light of day if the views of everyone were taken into account.
"There is no point listening to such anti-national and anti-development element," he said, attacking Mevani.
The "anti-national" jibe evoked strong opposition from the Congress with several MLAs telling Patel that a person taking the side of farmers must not be tagged so.
A visibly upset Mevani walked to the Well of the House and said, "The real anti-nationals are those who have sold this country." Unfazed, Patel went on to compare Mevani's stand on the bullet train project with that of social activist Medha Patkar who opposed the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
"Medha Patkar was against the Narmada (dam) project. I want the Congress to clear its stand now. Are you of the opinion that she was right? Do you support her demand? If past chief ministers, including those from the Congress, had bowed to her demands, this dam could never have been completed," Patel said.
"Now such dissidents have emerged in a new form. We cannot complete a project if we listen to such anti-national and anti-development elements. I want to ask the Congress if they support Mevani's demand," he said.
Addressing a press conference later, Patel attacked Mevani and termed him as a person having an "extremist" mindset.
"Mevani does not have any concern for Gujarat and its people. He is just trying to be a national leader," he said.
"You (Mevani) support anti-nationals, Naxals and Maoists. I asked in the House if the Congress supports his demand but no MLA said they do. People of Gujarat do not agree with your extremist mindset," Patel said.