After waiving individual farm loan arrears, the BJP-led Maharashtra government has now readied a plan to absorb group loans availed by farmers for farm infrastructure purposes.
On Monday, state Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil, who is also BJP’s Maharashtra president, confirmed the move. “Several farmers’ groups across the state have taken group loans for development of (farm) water supply schemes. There is a plan to absorb arrears of such loans,” said Patil.
The Congress government in Rajasthan had earlier included such group loans in its loan waiver scheme. Besides this, the plan is also to absorb long and medium term loans availed by marginal farmers for laying of pipelines, purchase of tractors and other farm-related works from the state’s land development bank (LDB) over the years.
Keen to leverage the move politically, Patil also indicated that the fresh fiscal dole would be rolled out before the model code of conduct for the Assembly polls kicks in. According to information, about 62,000 farmers have defaulted on loans availed from the LDB while an estimated Rs 700 crore is expected to be spent for absorbing the group loans.
After announcing the farm loan waiver scheme in June 2017, the government claims to have so far written off individual farm loans worth nearly Rs 25,000 crore. Just as the Opposition leaders have questioned the scheme’s implementation, Patil said on Monday that more than 92 per cent of the targeted beneficiaries had benefited from it.
He said this while replying to queries raised during an interaction organised by the Loksatta.
Despite BJP’s ascendancy in the state, Patil, meanwhile, candidly admitted that its leadership feels that “it would not be wise to contest on its own”. On poll-pact negotiation with ally Shiv Sena, Patil said, “One strategy finalised is that the two parties will contest the poll jointly. It makes sense both ideologically and practically.”
Elaborating, he said, “Had the Congress and NCP contested the 2014 (assembly) elections jointly and we (the Shiv Sena and BJP separately), they would have won 168 (out of 288) seats. We feel that this situation still hasn’t changed as much. While both the BJP and the Sena have consolidated their voter base, Congress’ vote share has remained intact. Given that the Congress and the NCP have to contest together, the party leadership wants to play it safe.”
Ironically, while the Shiv Sena has been pushing for equal sharing of seats, Patil indicated that this might be difficult to concede given that the BJP alone had 122 sitting legislators, six to seven party backed independents, and opposition turncoats to accommodate. “Barring a few exception, both parties will retain their sitting seats. An ongoing survey on seat wise winnability will guide the rest of the discussion,” he said.
Patil indicated that some more leaders from the NCP will switch over to the ruling side this week. Despite its dominant position, he also admitted that the BJP still requires established leaders of the old regime to put itself in the position of strength.
“Only when we are guaranteed of winning 100/120 seats regardless of the candidate can we put a full stop to it. We’re yet to reach such a stage. But I can tell you that the dependence on imports has come down since 2014,” he said, adding, “In 2014 the BJP had an open door policy for those interested. Today we’re in a position that we can screen them…”
Patil also claimed that the state government’s recent move to provide reservations to the Other Backward Classes on the basis of population would enhance their representation in the district councils and gram panchayats. The Opposition has targeted the government, claiming that the move will reduce such reservations.
Amid debate over the Centre’s contentious move of scrapping the special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Patil said, “This had been our demand since the time the status was granted. It was a cause that Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee fought and died for. You need a strong and stable government to take such a decision.”
He said that the BJP regime under (former PM) Atal Bihari Vajpayee could not implement it owing to coalition compulsions. “It was helpless in that sense.” Patil also supported the move to take such a major decision without consultations.
“For matters like these if you look at involving public in consultations, the decisions will never be taken. Such decisions must first be taken and then the government must be responsive to its impact.”