Shivraj seeks cash dole for rain-hit MP farmers, runs into election commission
The state government is trying to win over the farmers by spreading the repayment of short term loan up to three years and bear the interest over it.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has run into trouble with the election commission after having politically outplayed the Congress over farmers’ despair following the recent rain and hailstorm. The Congress had tried to corner his government in the assembly and outside it for neglecting the farmers and for covering up the professional examination board scandal.
Through a dramatic sit-in and a half- day fast to force the Centre to release Rs 5000 crore for the farmers, Chouhan managed to show the opposition party in bad light and garnered public support. His cabinet colleagues attended the BJP-sponsored dharna on Thursday. However, over Rs 7.4 crore collected during the sit in violated the model code of conduct.
The report by Bhopal district returning officer submitted to Chief Electoral officer is said to have categorically blamed the ruling party for violation of model code of conduct. Bhopal collector Nishant Warwade who was asked to look into the matter following complaints by Congress and AAP submitted video footages of the collection of funds by the ministers.
The ruling party defended itself saying the money would be disbursed among the aggrieved farmers. But the argument did not cut much ice with the electoral authorities.
The issue also recoiled on the Congress as the PCC chief Arun Yadav was also in trouble for giving cash to the relatives Kamal Vishwakarma, a farmer who committed suicide in Berasia block of Bhopal following damage to his crops. The returning officer of Bhopal has found that Yadav paid Rs 20,000 to farmer’s family. “The matter has been referred to election commission of India, New Delhi with the report,” said CEO Jaideep Govind.
At least ten farmers have committed suicide following the losses to crops. The hailstorm and rain ruined crops in 26000 out of the state’s 52000 villages, says an interim survey of the Government.
Chief Secretary Antony De Sa has extended the survey date till March 10 but it would be difficult for the state government to disburse relief without Centre’s aid, compensating the loss caused. The state officials waited on Friday for the arrival of Central team. The model code of conduct may also come in the way of disbursement unless the government is able to get the clearance for the electoral authorities.
The ruling party is banking upon the clearance to steal a march over the opposition.
The centre’s help doesn’t seem to be coming forth soon enough. The Centre has yet to announce the date its assessment team would visit the state. According to sources, the Central government is waiting for the official memorandum of the state government after which the Central team would come for assessment of damage caused by hailstorm in the state.
The state government is trying to win over the farmers by spreading the repayment of short term loan up to three years and bear the interest over it. Revenue minister Rampal Singh said the number of affected villages in primary survey is increasing. The government has also decided to waive electricity bills of farmers after Lok Sabha elections.
Against this background the ruling party is trying to create ground for the chief minister’s wife Sadhna Singh to contest the assembly by-election from Vidisha for the seat Chouhan vacated after simultaneously winning from Budni, his home district. Sadhna Singh has been cultivating the constituency by visiting the affected farmers.
To avoid charges of nepotism Chouhan got the leader opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj to propose Sadhna’s name. Swaraj represents the Vidisha seat in the Lok Sabha and has asked state in-charge Anantha Kumar to nominate Sadhna Singh to help her in the Lok Sabha elections. When Chouhan relinquished the Vidisha seat there were protests. Chouhan’s entry into the fray in the assembly elections had secured neighbouring segments for the party.
Now the party is facing factionalism in the region as stakes would be high for the party if Swaraj is fielded again from Vidisha.
Political observers feel Vidisha needs to be guarded for another reason. In the event of NDA falling short in numbers if Chouhan is required to pitch in for the BJP he might need to keep Vidisha voters in good humour. There is another opinion in the party that Swaraj could be asked to contest from Bhopal and Sadhna Singh could even be asked to contest for Vidisha parliamentary seat. The party is expected to announce the first list of nominees early next week.
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