After two rounds of polling in Madhya Pradesh, farm loan waiver has again taken centrestage in Madhya Pradesh, with the Congress government insisting that more than 21 lakh farmers have benefited from it and the BJP accusing the administration of cooking up figures.
On Tuesday, senior Congress leader Suresh Pachouri visited the home of former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan with a vehicle-load of documents containing names of beneficiaries in different districts.
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Over the last few weeks, Chouhan has dared Congress president Rahul Gandhi to sack Chief Minister Kamal Nath for failing to keep his promise of loan waiver. At each rally, Chouhan would raise the issue and asks the audience whether anyone has benefited from the scheme, indicating Rahul’s promise at rallies before last year’s Assembly elections that he would sack the chief minister within 10 days if farm loans were not waived.
On Tuesday, Congress leaders claimed to have sent proof of loan waivers to Chouhan’s residence and said that some members of the BJP leader’s extended family in his own village and home district have also benefited from the scheme, which promises to waive crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh. The party claims benefits had been passed on to more than 21 lakh farmers before the model code of conduct kicked in.
On Tuesday, the Election Commission permitted the government to extend benefits to farmers in 13 constituencies where voting has already taken place. The BJP had accused the government of using the model code as an excuse to stop the scheme because it does not have funds.
Chouhan, meanwhile, continued to raise the issue in rallies at many places in Bhind, Morena, Datia and Gwalior, among the constituencies that will go to the polls on May 12. “I don’t know how farmers will benefit by handing over documents to me. They (government) should give money to banks,’’ he said.
He claimed that the government has given only Rs 1,300 crore to banks against the total loan amount of Rs 48,000 crore. Chouhan also alleged that banks have started serving notices on farmers for default.
Chief Minister Nath told the media that the list of beneficiaries has already been uploaded on the Agriculture Department’s website and accused the BJP of spreading lies and misinformation. He said he had issued the administrative order within a couple of hours of taking oath of office on December 17 last year.
“After running the government for so long, the former chief minister (Chouhan) should have known that loan is waived after following certain procedures, which is time-consuming,’’ Nath said. He said he had told scheduled banks that if they can waive loans of industrialists but not of farmers they should close their branches in rural areas.
Nath said after this scheduled banks agreed to waive 50 per cent amount as part of a one-time settlement. He said the government will recapitalise cooperative banks in proportion to their loan amounts.