MAHARASHTRA: WAIVE THEORY
Parties pitch for farm loan waivers to corner BJP government
Apparently unmindful of the rising mercury, politicians in Maharashtra have fanned out into the hinterland, all hoping to win the support of the state’s distressed farmers. The farmers together owe commercial banks and agriculture cooperatives an estimated Rs 30,500 crore, which the state’s parties—the Shiv Sena, Congress and the NCP—feel is a perfect stick to beat the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in the state with.
On May 7, just two days into his Shiv Sampark Yatra across Marathwada, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray launched his ‘Mee karjmukt honarach (I will become loan free)’ drive to mobilise indebted farmers into agitation mode to get their loans waived. Earlier, the Congress and NCP had launched a joint ‘sangharsh yatra’ during which party leaders promised the farmers their support on the issue.
The Congress-NCP believe farm debts, which affects the lives of thousands of the state’s farmers, is their best chance to regain political ground, especially after the drubbing in the recent local body elections. Congress president Ashok Chavan, who led the yatra alongside the NCP’s Ajit Pawar, says it was the “insensitivity of the state government towards farmers” that had forced the Opposition to come onto the streets. It was the single-point agenda at a series of public meetings the two leaders addressed in several towns across the state.
Thackeray’s presence in Marathwada (which saw the maximum farmer suicides in 2016—600 of the 1,500 total count for the state) and the Congress-NCP’s campaign across affected regions including
THE STATE WILL NEED Rs 12,000 cr TO WAIVE A
Rs 1 LAKH LOAN PER FARMER
Vidarbha seem to have finally stirred the state government into action. CM Fadnavis is now launching his own samvaad yatra in which BJP workers will go into Maharashtra villages to raise awareness on his government’s many “farmer-friendly schemes”. The campaign, though, is struggling to take off. Partymen are already finding it difficult to cope with an earlier programme, ‘vistarak’, a communication drive in which party functionaries and elected representatives are directed to spend 15 days in five months working for the people outside their localities.
Maharashtra will need an additional Rs 12,000 crore just to waive a Rs 1 lakh loan per farmer (on the lines of CM Yogi Adityanath’s scheme in Uttar Pradesh). CM Fadnavis would much rather use the money to roll out schemes to supplement farm incomes, like providing farmers with poultry. The ideas, however, haven’t impressed even ally Thackeray. “In UP, there’s a Yogi government, but Maharashtra has a nirupyogi (useless) government,” the Shiv Sena leader taunted the CM in Aurangabad on May 3.
Political observers say Thackeray and the Congress-NCP are gearing up for possible early assembly polls. They believe the BJP is likely to call midterm elections around December if there’s a good monsoon this year.
CHUG ALONG A Congress farmer truck rally in Buldana district