Ajit Singh Khangrot, a farmer and village Panchayat member from Sambhar in Jaipur, was visibly annoyed when asked why he had been raising anti-Modi (Narendra Modi) slogan at ‘Jawab Do, Hisaab Do’ farmers’ protest rally organised by the Congress farmers’ cell at Parliament Street in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“If Prime Minister Narendra Modi thinks that the government at the Centre has been due to the BJP coming to power, then he’s wrong. It’s due to the lakhs of farmers, agricultural labourers and the common man who voted the BJP to power with a huge majority, because Modi promised ‘achche din’ for the farmers. But, the prime minister has failed to keep his promises. And, if it continues, the same voters won’t hesitate to throw the BJP out from the Centre in 2019,” Khangrot told Firstpost.
The farmers' agitation in the National Capital on Tuesday led by former BJP MP from Bhandara-Gondia and now chairman, All India Kisan Khet Mazdoor Congress, Nana Patole and the narrative weaved around it was a clear indication that the Congress has started wooing farmers aggressively ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Besides highlighting the plight of farmers across the country, the Congress leaders and the farmers who came from various states also made it clear that the party led by its president Rahul Gandhi would make farmer distress a major issue during the Lok Sabha election.
“Today it’s the beginning of our struggle. Modi didn’t keep the promises he made to farmers in 2014 – whether it was related implementation of Swaminathan Committee recommendations, minimum support price (MSP), waiving crop loans or bringing down the prices of fertilisers. We’ll ensure that the farmers get their dues. If Congress comes to power in 2019, it’ll fulfil all promises made to farmers. It’s their right and government won’t be doing any charity,” Patole said.
After addressing the rally, Patole along with hundreds of Congress workers and farmers, broke the barricades and marched into the Parliament Street police station raising slogans, and staged a dharna.
The farmers’ cell of the Congress and one of the frontal organisations of the party — All India Kisan Khet Mazdoor Congress managed to bring farmers from various states — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal, to name just a few. Patole’s presence as a new leader of the farmers’ cell has enthused them to revive the organisation and fight for their rights.
“Farmers are motivated by the fact that Nanaji (Patole), who’s a farmer himself and left BJP over the farmers’ issue, is heading Kisan Khet Mazdoor Congress and leading the agitation. Farmers’ issue is going to be big during 2019 Lok Sabha election,” said S Pawan Kumar, a farmer and state president of Tamil Nadu Kisan Khet Mazdoor Congress.
During the rally, Firstpost spoke to farmers from several states to know more about the issues bothering the agriculture sector.
Pawan Kumar who belongs to Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu alleged that lack of crop purchasing centres in the state have made it difficult for the farmers sell their produce at right price.
“Farmers are unable to get the MSP of their produce, which is a major problem. They’re compelled to sell at a price much below the MSP. It’s more due to the collusion between touts (middlemen) and government officers. The government should announce Kaveri delta inland zone as an agriculture zone and mining of hydrocarbons and methane should be banned; otherwise farming will collapse in this area,” he mentioned.
The farmers from this poll-bound state alleged that the BJP government in the state has failed to keep proper functioning of crop mandis.
“Farmers are unable to sell their crops in mandis and as a result they have to undersell their produce to middlemen. BJP government made false promise to the farmers that their income would be doubled. In fact, after the Note ban, our conditions worsened. The issues bothering farmers are a part of Congress manifesto in the assembly polls and farmer distress would emerge as a major issue. Congress will come to power in Rajasthan this time,” Ajit Singh Khangrot said.
The farmers from poll-bound Madhya Pradesh didn’t forget to remind the public, as well as, farmers from other states about the Mandsaur incident. In June 2017, Mandsaur district witnessed a massive outburst in the form of farmers' agitation and violence, which later spread to other districts. Six farmers were killed in police firing.
“The condition of farmers in Madhya Pradesh is very bad. Gunvant Patidar, who’s associated with Naujawan Kisan Sabha and was instrumental in brokering peace deal between the farmers and government during Mandsaur farmers’ strike, quit BJP. This happened because Shivraj Singh Chouhan government is highly insensitive to farmer issues. One can see tractor full of produce of farmers waiting at mandis. Prices of fertilisers, pesticides and seeds continue to be high,” alleged Shankar Patidar.
The agricultural labourers who participated along with farmers from Uttar Pradesh complained of not getting employment under MNREGA. “It has become difficult for us to get regular employment under MNREGA, and whatever wages we get against the work done are below the standard wage. We’re not getting any support from state government,” alleged Akhlaf Salmani from Muzaffarnagar.
Despite having Congress government in Punjab and as coalition partner in Karnataka, the farmers and representatives of state farmers’ cell of the Congress from these two states were also present.
“Captain Sahab’s (Amarinder Singh) government in Punjab has shown that Congress keeps its promises. The state government has waived electricity charges of farmers and crop loan. But the continuous hike in diesel prices has increased the input costs for farmers. We’re here to give moral support to farmers from other states,” said Sukhwinder Singh, a farmer from Amritsar.
Added Mohd Zabiula, a Ragi farmer from Kolar in Karnataka, “Narendra Modi made false promises and did nothing for the farmers at the grass roots. Our state government is now waiving crop loans of farmers. If the UPA government could waive farm loan worth Rs 70,000 crore, why the NDA government failed to do so? The central government is more concerned about the capitalists rather than the farmers.”
Congress’ next move
In an interview to Firstpost, Patole said that Congress would launch a mega rally of farmers led by Raul Gandhi in January 2019.
During the rally, Patole and other Congress leaders including Randeep Singh Surjewala and Raj Babbar urged the farmers to continue with the agitation in respective states.
The Congress party will raise the issue of farmer distress in a big way during the assembly polls in MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana, and also during 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Updated Date: Oct 24, 2018 09:36 AM