Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday said the Opposition alliance, if elected in the Lok Sabha polls, will give complete farm loan waiver, 1.5 times minimum support price (MSP) to farmers for their produce, and conduct a detailed probe into the Rafale fighter jets deal executed by the Narendra Modi government.
He also slammed the Modi government for “misusing” the Army and the airstrike on terrorist camps for electoral politics, and accused it of ignoring farmers’ concerns.
Addressing a rally in Buldhana city, Pawar said, “If the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) is voted to power, we will constitute a thorough probe (into the Rafale deal) and expose the real face behind the multi-crore scam. We will bring the face responsible for the scam to the people.”
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Accusing the BJP-led government of apathy towards the agriculture sector and farmers, Pawar, who is not contesting the elections this year and is leading the NCP-Congress alliance’s poll campaign from the front in Maharashtra, said: “If our alliance is voted to power, we will give a complete loan waiver (to farmers). There will be no conditions or discrimination. Our government will also give 1.5 times higher MSP on farm produce.”
Pawar also pointed out that Rs 72,000 crore loan waiver was given during his tenure as the Union agriculture minister in the Manmohan Singh government.
He also took on the Modi government for what he called its “dictatorial style” of governance, and said the Centre has undermined both democracy and threatened the Constitution. “An autocratic rule kills democracy. We have seen this happen in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the past during individual dictatorial and military rules,” he reminded the people.
Pawar said India’s foundation was laid through the Constitution, which was safeguarded both in terms of its secularism and sovereignty by Jawaharlal Nehru. “Today, we have to ensure that sound foundation remains unaltered, that democracy is strengthened, and the Constitution remains intact,” he added.
On the defence deal, Pawar said, “The Rafale deal was discussed during the (Congress-led) UPA government for Rs 350 crore per fighter aircraft. The change of government saw Modi renegotiating after a year, raising the price (per plane) to Rs 605 crore, and finally Rs 1,660 crore.”
When questions were asked, the government dismissed them, saying that the deal was confidential, he said. “Court orders forced them to admit that documents were misplaced. And when the court admonished (the government), they argued that somebody had accessed the confidential documents, and copies were leaked to the media,” he said.
The NCP leader said the Modi government has not spared even the Army and paramilitary personnel killed in the Pulwama terror strike. “The surgical strike has become a handy weapon for their polls – they are using it for politics,” he said.
The senior leader’s decision to lead from the front — Pawar is addressing at least three to four rallies every day — is seen as an effort to revive the party organisation following a rout in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. Successive local bodies elections over the last four years also showed the NCP struggling in Maharashtra, the party’s primary political base. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the NCP won four, and ally Congress two, out of 42 seats in the state.