Kairana by election results: BJP govt's failure to purchase sugarcane, timely payment of arrears to farmers cost them bypolls
The BJP knew the importance of sugarcane as a political issue in Uttar Pradesh and Kairana during the 2017 Assembly elections, but its failure to fulfill the promises it made in the 2017 Assembly elections in the Uttar Pradesh
Facilitating purchase of all sugarcane produce and timely payment of arrears to sugarcane farmers was one of the key poll-promises of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, but the government failed to keep the farmers satisfied, especially in Kairana, the result of which was BJP's crushing defeat in the Kairana Lok Sabha constituency, reports have claimed. That BJP's Jinnah politics failed against the Opposition parties ganna politics.
Interestingly, apart from being one of the largest growers of sugarcane, Uttar Pradesh also pays the highest State Advised Price (SAP) for sugarcane. Unlike Maharashtra or Karnataka where rates are way lower and closer to the rate fixed by the central government, Uttar Pradesh in 2017 had announced an SAP of Rs 315. Then why are farmers in Uttar Pradesh, or Kairana, not happy? And how did it lead to the BJP's defeat in the Kairana by election? Can the Yogi Adityanth government be blamed for the bypoll results?
Ever since the Adityanath government came to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, the ruling party has been in (ill)famously in news for things like banning cow slaughter, closing unlicensed meat shops, its ministers making communally flaring comments on the Ram Mandir or inter-faith marriages, and for atrocities against Dalits — now defined as "everyday communalism" to keep the Hindutva politics alive. Solving pertinent issues doesn't seem to be on the mind of the state government.
One such issue is the sugarcane problem in the state. In other words, the Adityanath administration has been busy doing everything except administering the state.
Sugarcane is a major cash crop in Uttar Pradesh. It accounts for roughly Rs 30,000 crore worth of direct economy and has over 40 lakh rural households engaged in various activities including farming. Sugarcane, thus, is a politically sensitive issue, and any decision around it can make or break the goodwill among voters, especially in communally sensitive western Uttar Pradesh. Kairana being one of the Lok Sabha constituencies in the region.
The BJP knew it very well, and therefore, in its 2017 poll manifesto, the party made two poll promises — payment to farmers within 14 days of selling sugarcane, and second, ensure mills purchase all the sugarcane produced. In November 2017, it announced that sugarcane will be purchased at an SAP of Rs 315 per quintal and that farmers will be paid in one installment by sugar mills.
According to India Today, state sugarcane minister Suresh Rana, and an MLA from Thana Bhavan, one of the Assembly constituencies that are part of the Kairana parliamentary constituency, had even said that there would be no piling up of arrears this season due to stricter monitoring and structural changes, including the provision of a joint escrow account, under which 85 percent of the money received by mills on account of the sale of sugar would be diverted for settling farmers’ dues automatically.
By March 2018, with sugarcane crushing still in progress, Uttar Pradesh had already clocked a record production of sugar with almost 9 lakh tonnes. Though this was a good production year for Uttar Pradesh sugar mills, it also meant a piling up of arrears to be paid to farmers also since sugar prices in India haven't risen vis-a-vis to sugarcane prices, especially in Uttar Pradesh.
Despite assurances by the Adityanath government, payment of arrears remained slow. By March 2018, sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh reportedly owed Rs 9,600 crores (Rs 12,000 crores according to India Today) in arrears to farmers. In Kairana alone, the arrears due were at Rs 1,000 crore.
The fact that Uttar Pradesh sugarcane prices — Rs 315 for common variety (used for sugar production) as fixed by the government — was way higher than sugarcane prices in states like Maharashtra and Karnataka doesn't help the case either. Interestingly, while Maharashtra and Karnataka use a revenue-sharing formula where sugarcane is purchased as per fair and remunerative price (FRP) fixed by the Centre. The FRP for the ongoing season is Rs 255 which was Rs 230 in the previous years.
The Adityanath government not only failed to fulfill the promises made in its poll manifesto, that it continued with the methods of the Akhilesh Yadav government shows a lack of interest in bringing the change that it promised. In the end, BJP's poll promise led to its defeat in Kairana by-election. And it did so, without taking any significant efforts to resolve Uttar Pradesh's sugarcane problem.
That the Adityanth government had lost the plot when it came to Uttar Pradesh's sugarcane problem was clear when it ordered a CBI inquiry into the sale of 21 sugarcane mills by the then Mayawati government. While tjhe BJP hoped to deflect the attention to the Opposition, the move backfired as the probe dashed the hopes of the mills' revival in their future.
Even Modi's visit to Baghpat to inaugurate an expressway just a day before Kairana went to polls didn't help BJP. "Ganna" eventually even beat BJP's development agenda.
With inputs from PTI
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