At a time when Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are sparring with each other over the issue of employment in poll-bound Gujarat, the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch released a mid-term survey on Monday which said that better employment opportunities remain the top issue for voters in the state.

The survey analysis which was shared on Monday at a press conference in Ahmedabad was carried out across 26 Lok Sabha constituencies of Gujarat and about 500 people from each constituency participated in this survey that was carried out earlier this year. The findings of the survey on top 10 pressing issues for voters pointed out that on a scale of 1 to 10, better employment opportunities ranked topmost with a rating of 8.72. Other pressing issues for the voters it said were better public transport, empowerment of women and security of women, among others.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly hit out at the BJP in his election campaign rallies on issues of unemployment and joblessness.

Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani said in a tweet on Sunday that Gujarat has lowest unemployment rate in the country at 0.9% against national average of 5%. In another tweet, the chief minister said that over 15 lakh youngsters of which 63% were women got trained “in last seven years through 500 Kaushal Vikas Kendra”.

At a rally in Gandhinagar last month where OBC youth leader Alpesh Patel joined Congress party, Gandhi criticized the BJP for rising unemployment issues in the country and claimed that as many as 3 million youth in Gujarat are unemployed.

In January this year, ahead of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit Thakor had led a protest March against growing unemployment in the state. One of the common rallying points against the government for Thakor and two other youth leaders Hardik Patel of the Patidar community and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani has been the issue of unemployment and lack of better job opportunities.

The ruling BJP government has meanwhile begun work on a number of initiatives to create jobs and better opportunities in the state. Earlier this year, the state government started a mass recruitment drive where it hired as many as 67,000 people in various government departments by March.

The state budget for 2017-18 also made provisions for creating job opportunities and development of soft skills training. The government has earmarked Rs866 crore towards organizing 100 recruitment camps aimed at benefitting about 300,000 youths. Part of the money as per the budget plan is also to be spent on providing facilities for about 200,000 trainees of ITIs.

The government also held ‘mega job fairs’ in various districts where over 100,000 candidates have been offered jobs in the private sector, including multinational companies. Last month, the BJP government unveiled its new garment policy, saying that it will target investments worth Rs20,000 crore and create about one lakh new jobs. The government also announced setting up of 16 Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) estates in a bid to attract over 15,000 MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) with a cumulative investment of Rs19,650 crore. These new industrial estates aim to create over one lakh jobs.

The report said that 36% of the 42 MLAs from the Congress party and 27% of the 112 MLAs from BJP had criminal cases registered against them. This survey was based on the analysis of 158 out of 182 MLAs. As many as 24 MLAs have not been analysed because they are either no longer members of the Gujarat assembly or due to badly scanned self-sworn affidavits, it said.

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