The Maharashtra BJP will use agricultural reforms as its key weapon to fight the ruling Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena alliance in the polls to the 14,234 gram panchayats slated for January 15. The results will be declared on January 18.
At the party’s internal meeting, the BJP leadership has urged its cadres in rural belts to go aggressive to convey the message of agricultural reforms with the central theme of farmers’ welfare.
Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis said: “The initiative to make non-implementation of MSP an offense was mooted during my tenure in Maharashtra. It was supported neither by the Congress nor the NCP. We took a step forward to enhance procurement of crops at MSP to help small and marginal farmers. Now, we are presenting facts and figures to people.”
The BJP has prepared a booklet, calling out the Congress and the NCP’s alleged flip-flops on the agriculture sector, and has been circulating it in the rural areas. The BJP Kisan Cell has been assigned to campaign actively at the grassroots level.
BJP Kisan Cell president Anil Bonde told The Indian Express, “The exploitation of small and marginal farmers in the Agriculture Produce Market Committee, where farm produce is often procured below MSP, is the main issue. This is already being debated.” There are 306 APMCs in Maharashtra with an annual turnover exceeding Rs 50,000 crore. Those controlling the APMCs are reaping financial benefits depriving the farmers of the price for their crops, he added. The Opposition believes that the gram panchayat poll will be the litmus test and retaining its hold in the rural belts a daunting task.
Maharashtra with its 1.56 crore farmers constitute 78 per cent population of small and marginal farmers. Secondly, 55 per cent of the state population lives in rural Maharashtra.
The BJP will also highlight the government’s “failure” to provide financial package to farmers affected by cyclone and hailstorm.
Bonde said, “Under the PMKY, farmers receive an annual assistance of Rs 6,000. But in comparison to the Union grant, what has the state given to its farmers reeling under financial constrains?”