At almost every campaign rally in Madhya Pradesh, BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan asks the audience if there are any beneficiaries of the Congress government’s farm loan waiver scheme and the crowd usually responds with a resounding no. In response to Chouhan’s taunt, the Kamal Nath-led Congress government, which claims to have waived loans of more than 21 lakh farmers, recently sent paper bundles with lists of beneficiaries to the former chief minister’s residence.
This tussle between the Congress government and the previous BJP regime over the scheme could play its part in rural areas of the state as 16 seats in the state vote in the two remaining phases on May 12 and May 19.
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Standing in the shade of a huge platform in Vidisha mandi, next to their wheat-laden tractor-trolleys, Arvind Dangi and other farmers from Padrat village, about 10 km from Vidisha, are waiting for their produce to be auctioned. Vidisha votes on May 12.
“I am not sure whether my loan will be waived or not. All I have now is a certificate with a promise that it will be, but the money has not been transferred to my bank account,’’ says the 22-year-old whose family owns a 50-bigha land.
Dangi is among lakhs of farmers who have received text messages on their phones saying their applications have been processed but the loans can’t be waived yet since the model code of conduct for the elections is in force. Dangi says he will be satisfied only when the money is transferred to bank accounts and they become eligible to take another loan.
Pointing to the beneficiary list that has been uploaded on the agriculture department’s portal, the government has accused the Opposition BJP of lying and engaging in a misinformation campaign to defame the Congress in the midst of general elections.
While the BJP accuses the government of not having money to fulfill the promise, the Congress, while claiming it has the wherewithal to finance the scheme and that it has “found a way out”, blames the empty coffers on the previous BJP government.
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In the midst of this political tussle, at the mandi, farmers say their patience is running thin.
“If they don’t waive the loans, voters will shift (to the BJP),’’ says Raj Yadav, a 27-year-old farmer from Dhobikheda, a village 40 km away from the district headquarters.
Manoj Kushwah, 18, shows little excitement about casting his first vote on May 12. “I would have definitely voted had the loan been waived off,’’ he says, while claiming that no farmer in their village or in nearby villages has had his loan waived.
Ashok Dangi, 30, is more optimistic. “Because it is in writing (the text message on the waiver being on hold for the duration of the elections), I am 99 per cent sure that the loan will be waived,’’ he says.
Rajesh Sharma, a 17-bigha farmer from Sau village in Nateran tehsil, says he won’t waste his vote. “Vote to denge (I will vote),’’ he says making clear his support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Why promise if you can’t deliver,’’ he says.
The farmers are also not very enthused by the Centre’s PM-KISAN scheme that promises to transfer Rs 6,000 in three installments of Rs 2,000 each to the farmers’ bank accounts. No farmer in MP has benefited from the Central scheme so far because the state government has not sent the list of potential beneficiaries.