The promise of loan waivers for farmers which the Congress couldn’t fulfil before it lost power in Madhya Pradesh took centre stage on Tuesday, with the ruling BJP and opposition Congress accusing each other of cheating farmers.
Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel alleged that farmers received loan waiver certificates but their loans were not waived. The promise to waive loans of up to Rs 2 lakh created confusion in cooperative banks. Patel said administrators of cooperative societies were asked to give proposals to bear half the cost of such waivers.
“The loans were not waived but farmers became defaulters. Since they have been declared defaulters, farmers are not eligible for fresh loans,” the agriculture minister said, holding former chief minister Kamal Nath responsible for the situation. Appealing to farmers to come forward to lodge complaints of cheating, Patel said the former CM had cleared a proposal to waive loans of 54 lakh farmers to the tune of Rs 54,000 crore immediately after taking his oath, and that the then chief secretary had issued orders.
“Not one farmer who had Rs 2 lakh outstanding loan benefited from the scheme,” Patel said, recalling that Rahul Gandhi had in his campaign for the 2018 Assembly election given such a promise and backed it by saying he would remove the chief minister who fails to keep the promise within 10 days.
The loan waiver promise is seen as having played a key role in Congress’s victory over the BJP, which had ruled in the state for 15 years. The BJP returned to power within 15 months after Congress legislators rebelled against the leadership of Kamal Nath.
Congress MLA and agriculture minister in the Kamal Nath government Sachin Yadav accused the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government of failing to make up its mind on whether to continue the scheme or scrap it even three months after coming to power.
Yadav said the BJP government should complete the third phase of the waiver and stop lakhs of farmers from being declared defaulters.
The Congress government had said that nearly 21 lakh farmers, whose loans were worth less than Rs 50,000, had benefited in the first phase. Yadav said the government had in March started the process to waive loans between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh before the party lost power. He said only two lakh farmers out of seven lakh potential beneficiaries got the benefit in the second phase. The party had announced that loans between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh would be waived in the third and last phase.