Fearing that it is losing ground in rural areas and among farmers, the BJP is set to organise four rallies to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party sources have said. The rallies, scheduled in Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh in February, will be followed by similar rallies across the country by other senior BJP leaders.
The decision to reach out to farmers coincides with the NDA government’s attempts to take credit for MGNREGA, saying that it has “transformed” the rural job guarantee scheme from a “pitiable” state under the UPA, which launched it in 2006. The scheme, which Modi had once called a “living monument” of the UPA government’s failures, was on Monday termed the “nation’s pride” by his government.
Party sources said the rallies by Modi, which will showcase the recently-launched, Rs 17,600-crore crop insurance scheme, is part of BJP’s attempts to keep its support base among farmers intact. Modi will address the rally in Madhya Pradesh on February 18, Odisha on February 21, Karnataka on February 27 and Uttar Pradesh on February 28.
Terming the new insurance scheme, approved by the Cabinet on January 13, a “game changer”, BJP general secretary Arun Singh said the scheme will also check farmers’ suicides. “The new scheme has low premium, more transparency, no cap and is backed by high technology. The PM wants 50 per cent of the farmers to be covered under it,” he said.
Party sources said that they plan to mobilise lakhs of people for each of Modi’s rallies. “We do not want a gap between what the government does and what the people get. The PM has talked about achhe din. But if the common man is not satisfied, what’s the benefit,” asked a party leader.
He added: “The party leaders will have to meet people and discuss the government’s initiatives so that we get credit. The feel-good factor has to be created.”
He said party workers have to spread “awareness” about government’s schemes right “up to the mandal level.”
The Congress campaign against the government’s efforts to bring a new land acquisition bill had tried to paint the Modi government as “anti-farmer”. “It was the opposition’s campaign that created an impression that we are anti-farmer. We will have to get rid of this and we are confident that we will be able to convince people at the ground level because they have benefited from our schemes,” Singh said.
Party sources said the BJP decided to hold these rallies after Modi criticised his ministers at a January 27 meeting, saying that they and the party had failed to take the “good works” of the government to people and claim credit for them.
Meanwhile, Modi government’s attempts to take credit for MGNREGA is also being seen as a bid to woo back farmers, who were antagonised over the Land Bill row. On Tuesday, the BJP maintained that the PM never termed the scheme a failure. “What the Prime Minister criticised was the way the UPA government implemented it. But our government has issued advisories to include more women, made payments through bank accounts, ensuring less pilferage,” BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh said.