Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday started a campaign called Karj Mukti to ensure that the ruling BJP does not walk away with the credit of announcing the loan waiver in rural Maharashtra. “I know loan waiver is not the lasting solution. But if the government has declared a loan waiver of Rs 34,000 crore to 89 lakh farmers, we are going to reach out to each and every individual to ascertain if they have received the benefits. We will ask the banks if they have written off the loans. After all, these were the banks that had slapped notices on the farmers for crop loan debt,” Thackeray said at meetings in Jalgaon and Dhule on Wednesday.
To score points over the BJP, he said: “The loan waiver should be given to farmers and extended up to June 2017.”
In response to the demand, a bureaucrat from the Ministry of Cooperation and Marketing said: “The government has considered all segments and sections. It is a pointless debate. There are banking norms that have to be followed.”
Criticising both the BJP and the Congress-NCP, Thackeray said: “The chief minister announced loan waiver to help 40 lakh farmers wipe off their crop loan records. It would help 89 lakh farmers. Now, we want the list of each and every farmer. Yes, our sainiks will count the numbers. The Congress and the NCP accuse us of doublespeak. Yes, we are in the government. But we will also ensure the loan waiver that has been promised by the government is implemented properly.”
The aggression of Shiv Sena, which attacked both the ruling BJP and slammed the Congress-NCP, is part of its strategy to create its own space in state politics and have a separate identity from the ruling BJP. It is also an exercise to mobilise the cadres and take the credit for the loan waiver that had been announced by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on June 24, sources said.
Loan waiver rallies are not confined to the Sena alone. At Buldhana district, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ashok Chavan launched another farmers’ rally called “Did you get the loan waiver?” The Congress leader plans to tour across Maharashtra asking the big question to the farmers.
A group of farmers’ organisation, Sukanu Samiti, has decided to distance itself from the Shiv Sena and the Congress and create its own identity through a similar campaign.
A farmer who did not wish to be named said: “Whether it is the Congress, the NCP or farmers’ organisations, we have to keep our constituent intact through such campaigns. The loan waiver benefit to 89 lakh farmers would leave no space for any of us in the rural areas.”
Unfazed by the Congress, NCP and farmers’ campaigns, the ruling BJP believes that farmers have inherent wisdom to judge who has worked for their welfare and they were not going to get carried away by loan waiver politics.
In Buldhana when Ashok Chavan asked the big question, local farmers’ groups replied saying: “Yes, the poor and needy farmers will get. It is not for rich person like you.”
The retaliation in the rally has unnerved the Congress. A senior MPCC functionary said: “We are showing undue haste. We should have waited till the loan waiver was enforced and then taken the government to task.”
The chairman of the State Agriculture Commission, Pasha Patel, said: “Everybody in India knows Maharahstra has given a biggest blanket loan waiver of Rs 34,000 crore to 89 lakh farmers. In Karnataka, the Rs 8,000 crore loan waiver is up to Rs 50,000 and only for those farmers who took crop loan from district banks. Our loan waiver extends to farmers across 30 district central cooperative banks, 23 national banks, seven commercial and two rural banks. The process has just begun and will take time to enforce the loan waiver totally. Those showing haste to make comments should at least wait till its implementation.”