Raju Shetti’s, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana’s sole MP from Hatkanangale constituency in western Maharashtra, says mainstream parties have failed to address farmers’ problems
Are you in talks with Congress and NCP?
The pre-poll discussions with the Congress-NCP have come to a standstill. After a series of meetings, I realised they are not willing to make any commitment on criticial issues related to agriculture and farmers’ welfare. So I have pulled out of the negotiations.
Is the dispute also related to seat-sharing?
Discussions related to seat-sharing are secondary. My primary concern is a common minimum agenda. In the Lok Sabha, I had moved two private member Bills. One was related to the provisions for absolute loan waiver to farmers. The other was about giving farmers higher remuneration, which would be 50 per cent more than the overall production cost. I want the Congress-NCP alliance to accept these demands if they want us to join the mahagathbandhan… How can I go with Congress-NCP leaders, who own sugar mills and have failed to pay the fair renumerative price to poor farmers in Maharashtra? I cannot let them down. There are about 53 sugar mills owned and operated by NCP leaders, and they collectively owe Rs 1,502 crore to sugarcane farmers in the current financial year. Forty four sugar mills associated with Congress leaders owe Rs 1,250 crore. About 73 sugar mills, which are associated to BJP leaders, have accumulated arrears worth Rs 1,505 crore.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, you were part of the BJP-led alliance. Is the NDA an option?
There is no question of returning to the NDA. I had supported the BJP-led alliance because they promised reforms in agriculture. But they failed. The minimum support price listed for 22 crops/cereals is just on paper. Farmers are selling crops below MSP in the open market and incurring losses up to Rs 1,000 per quintal.
In the Interim Budget of 2019-20, an incentive of Rs 6,000 has been promised to farmers…
It’s just a political gimmick. In 2013, the UPA government had adopted a similar poll tactic when it hurriedly passed the National Food Security Act. Such populist schemes are short-lived. They don’t help uplift farmers or poor people. Moreover, let us not overlook that it was an Interim Budget, valid only for a few months.