Bhopal: With crucial by-elections to 28 assembly seats coming up, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan Tuesday announced a cash benefit scheme for farmers — the largest constituency in the agrarian state.
Under the scheme, called Mukhya Mantri Kisan Kalyan Yojana, farmers will get two instalments of Rs 2,000 each every year. Madhya Pradesh has around 77 lakh potential beneficiaries, so the total cost to the exchequer is expected to be at least Rs 3,000 crore.
The scheme will run alongside the Narendra Modi government’s income support scheme, PM-KISAN, so the farmers will end up getting Rs 4,000 from the state government and Rs 6,000 from the Centre.
Political battle over loan waiver escalates
On the same day Chouhan announced the new scheme, the Congress accused him of peddling lies. The context was that a day ago, the BJP government admitted in the assembly that more than 26 lakh farmers had benefitted to the tune of Rs 11,646 crore from the farm loan waiver given by Kamal Nath’s short-lived government.
State Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel, who had gone to the extent of appealing farmers to register an FIR against former CM Kamal Nath for taking them on a ride, told the assembly in a written reply Monday that loans worth Rs 11,646.98 crore were waived in two phases, covering 26,95,381 farmers. He said the applications of another 5.90 lakh farmers for waiving loans worth Rs 7,492 crore were pending.
The BJP had claimed throughout the Congress’ 15 months in power, from December 2018 to March 2020, and even during Chouhan’s subsequent six-month rule, that few farmers had benefitted from the crop loan waiver. BJP leaders would often challenge their Congress counterparts to provide proof about beneficiaries.
The waiver of crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh was announced by then-Congress president Rahul Gandhi ahead of the 2018 assembly elections, and is said to be one of the main reasons why the Congress was able to end the BJP’s 15-year reign. In the election campaign, Gandhi had repeatedly asserted that whoever became Congress CM would be sacked in 10 days if the loan waiver promise wasn’t kept, and Kamal Nath kept the promise, signing the file within hours of taking oath.
But the cash-strapped Congress government had announced that loans would be waived in phases — the first would cover loans up to Rs 50,000, and the last between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh. So, starting on Kamal Nath’s 11th day as CM, the BJP started putting pressure on the government, and continued to claim that only a handful of farmers had benefitted long after the CM was unseated and Chouhan came back to power.
Chouhan and Jyotiraditya Scindia, whose switch to the BJP triggered the fall of the Congress government, both recently ridiculed the loan waiver scheme, but Kamal Nath, the state Congress chief, said he was ready to provide names and other details to them.
“Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Jyotiraditya Scindia were always peddling lies on the loan waiver. The Chouhan government has itself exposed the politics of lies by its admission in the assembly. Both should apologise to people,” he said, demanding that the BJP government should immediately start the process to waive the loans of the remaining farmers.
Congress MLA Sachin Yadav, who was agriculture minister in the Congress government, told reporters Tuesday that the BJP’s politics is rooted in telling lies and creating confusion.
“It could lie outside but was forced to admit the truth on the floor of the assembly,” Yadav said. He also recalled that every time the BJP raised questions on the scheme, the Congress government had provided information on beneficiaries, including the relatives of CM Chouhan.
Yadav said the Congress government was about to roll out another phase of the scheme called ‘Jai Kisan Fasal Rin Yojana’ before the BJP toppled the democratically elected Kamal Nath government by using “unfair means”.
BJP won’t commit to continuing scheme
Kamal Patel, the current agriculture minister, in his reply in the assembly, did not commit to continuing the loan waiver scheme. “The government is holding a comprehensive review of the scheme. An appropriate decision will be taken at an appropriate time. It’s not possible to give a time-frame,” the written reply said.
BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal stuck to the same line as before, claiming the Congress had announced that loans up to Rs 2 lakh of all farmers would be waived in the first 10 days. But then, he said, it added riders and a phased roll-out after coming to power.
“Till date, not a single farmer with a loan up to Rs 2 lakh has benefitted,” Agrawal said.
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