A month before the first phase of polling in Madhya Pradesh, the ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP are trading charges over farm loan waiver, which was a major issue in the recently held Assembly polls that saw a change of guard.
Accusing the Kamal Nath government of taking farmers for a ride, the BJP had asked for proof of beneficiaries. In the run-up to the Assembly elections, the Congress had promised that it will waive off loans up to Rs 2 lakh.
Nath’s media coordinator Narender Saluja visited former cabinet minister Narottam Mishra’s bungalow two days ago and handed over a pen drive that contained details of farmers whose loans have been waived off over the last few weeks.
The unscheduled visit, with the local media in tow, was in response to Mishra’s challenge that he would pay Rs 2 lakh from his pocket if he was given evidence of one beneficiary whose Rs 2 lakh loan had been written off.
Saluja said that before the model code of conduct came into force, 22.84 lakh farmers benefited from the scheme but Mishra was handed over details of “only hundreds of farmers’’ with a request to pay them Rs 2 lakh each. The government has said there are more than 50 lakh loanee farmers, and the benefit of the scheme will be passed to the rest once the poll code was withdrawn.
Mishra neither gave money nor responded immediately. More than 24 hours later, he told reporters that he stood by his charge. He claimed that he spoke to some farmers on the list provided by the Congress but none has received the benefit so far. He said some on the list are Congress workers.
The former minister claimed that some told him that they did get a text message about the waiver of Rs 2 lakh loan but the amount outstanding against them was much less. The former legislative affairs minister alleged that the loans had been converted into NPA and that the farmers will not be able to take loans in the future.
In response, Saluja said that if the senior BJP leader did not stop lying about the pro-farmer initiative, the Congress would again visit his home with the farmers and the loan waiver certificates they have received. He claimed that when the Congress delegation visited Mishra’s house for the first time, he refused to call up the beneficiaries whose mobile numbers were given in the list.