Jaipur: Can guar gum fetch votes? Maybe not, but the produce has become a political talking point in the northern part of Rajasthan.
That's because a mother-daughter duo in the fray for the upcoming Assembly polls have declared assets of Rs 2,960 crore most of which was acquired through guar trading. Their assets are more than the combined assets of 400 Congress and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) candidates.
Vimla Jindal and Kamini Jindal are wife and daughter respectively of guar gum trader BD Agarwal, who has formed the National Unionist Zamindara Party. This is the first time in Rajasthan's history that a political party has been formed on the basis of a single crop - guar gum, also called "green gold" keeping in mind its demand abroad.
Guar was initially used as a vegetable but its demand increased after its use in paper, textile, hydraulic technology and for natural gas extraction picked up in foreign shores. It is produced in Sri Ganganagar and Hanumangarh districts and is exported to over 30 countries. Agarwal's party had fielded 17 candidates while Agarwal has abstained from contesting himself. Vimla and Kamini Jindal have filed nominations from Sri Ganganagar and Sangaria constituencies. While Vimla has declared assets worth Rs 2,762 crore of which Rs 1,558 crore belong to her husband, Kamini who is married to IPS officer Gagandeep Singla, also possesses assets worth Rs 197 crore. Vimla has withdrawn her nomination from Sri Ganganagar but will contest from Sangaria. Similarly, Kamini is set to contest from Sri Ganganagar and withdrew her nomination from Sangaria.
The total assets of 400 candidates of the Congress and BJP in the state amount to about Rs 1700 crore, not even half of what the mother and daughter have declared. They are even richer than the richest MPs -- Mahendra Prasad of JD (U) having assets of Rs 692 crore and Jagan Mohan Reddy of YSR Congress with assets worth Rs 445 crore.
The declared assets of the mother-daughter duo have even outweighed the assets of Diya Kumari, member of one of the richest royal families. Diya has declared her total assets at Rs 9 crore. Even Chief minister Ashok Gehlot and former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's modest assets of Rs 1.69 crore and Rs 4.12 crore stand nowhere before the guar gum kings. The richest candidate of the BJP is Prem Singh Bajore with assets worth Rs 87 crore and for the Congress that position is held by Udai Lal Anjana having assets of Rs 65.55 crore.
Obviously, both Congress and the BJP tried to woo Agarwal into their fold. But with their coffers full, Agarwal decided to launch his own party to further the interests of farmers, he claims. "None of the political parties work for the welfare of farmers. Apathetic attitude towards farmers necessitated a dedicated political party for the farming community," he says.
In its manifesto, the party has made a number of announcements with regard to protection of farmers' rights. On the top is right price for guar gum and other farming produce. Agarwal had shot to fame when he offered Rs 100 crore to the state government for opening a medical college in Sri Ganganagar in the year 2012. The government initially remained reluctant but later prepared a proposal for the college which will be set up at a cost of above Rs 200 crore. It was after this venture that Agarwal launched a political party.
The party initially intended to field candidates in all 200 Assembly seats but confined its number to just 17 as it could not garner support of all farmers across the state.
In fact, guar gum production is eating up the land share of other agricultural produce such as bajra, mustard, soyabean and cotton. The cultivation of guar has doubled in last one decade as it needs less water and care but gives good returns as compared to other produce. Demand for guar gum is increasing day by day and Agarwal knows the tricks of the trade well.
"America has started exporting natural gas to other countries as guar gum has reduced cost of extraction," he claims.
Whether guar gum can fetch votes is yet to be seen but the produce has definitely started making waves in the desert state's political circuits.