Making tall promises for political gains in bettering the lot of the farmers and then brushing it under the carpet is bound to hurt not only the Narendra Modi government at the centre but also the BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
The agitating farmers in the two states have legitimate reasons to take to the streets in protest after a bumper harvest demanding loan waivers as the Narendra Modi government has done precious little in fulfilling its pledge of providing fifty per more over and above the minimum support price (MSP) for their produce.
The farmers in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh believe their governments have been lackadaisical in considering the demands over the last three years. The agitators adopted aggressive posture even as the state governments in both the states tried to divide the farm leadership than being genuinely concerned.
While in Madhya Pradesh the good crop of onions was left rotting on the streets, Maharashtra was witness to a healthy crop of tomatoes being strewn on the road.
The farmer’s agitation at Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh led to five protestors being shot dead on June seventh threatening chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s core constituency of farmers which might become his nemesis.
The state BJP believes it is now time to consider a change in leadership in MP especially if the saffron brigade wants to retain power in Madhya Pradesh in the assembly elections due in November 2018. Chouhan has survived many a crises including the controversial deaths of many Vyapam witnesses and corruption scandals.
However, the present agrarian crises is not on account of natural causes but inept political and administrative management. The demand for loan relief has spread across several northern states after UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath fulfilled the BJP’s election promise with a Rs 36,359 crore waiver.
Chouhan appears to have taken matters lightly pertaining to the farmers waiver demand of Rs 39,000 crores. Since the demonetisation on November 8 last year, cash transactions had fallen by 70 per cent at the mandis because of the liquidity crunch causing hardship to farmers.
In Maharashtra the Fadnavis government can be in trouble with its ally Shiv Sena as its ministers boycotted the weekly cabinet meeting earlier in the week on Wednesday on the farmer issue. They made it clear they will not attend these meetings till a complete farm loan waiver is granted.
Needless to say the farmers were deeply disappointed with the sops offered. Reneging on its promise, the ruling BJP leadership has made it clear that the Centre will not provide any help with loan waivers and that 50 per cent profit is not possible.
Coupled with this is the heart rending increase in farmer suicides. The opposition has found a lever to stoke the discontent in the wake of drought for the last two years followed by a crash in crop prices. Compounding matters are the many unaffiliated farmers joining the strike blocking food supplies to cities.
The BJP has reasons to be worried on the farmers front especially the loan waiver issue. Even as farmers in MP claimed that they had been fired upon, the state government insisted that the firing had not come from them but unknown quarters among the agitating farmers.
On the other hand the chief minister claimed that the farmers had been incited by Congressmen who have been supporting the farmers agitation. Chouhan claimed that anti-social elements and not the farmers had fired upon the agitators.
This was denied by MP BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chouhan who said that he saw shots being fired by the administration.
Farming being a state subject, the role of the states cannot be undermined. Carefully thought out farm insurance policies providing timely relief can mitigate the impact of adverse climate.
The time has come for a national Agriculture policy to provide higher crop remuneration leading to an increase in food prices. In this clash between rural middle class interests, it is time for the Centre to evolve a formula that strikes a balance.