The Indian National Congress has launched a full offensive against the policies of the BJP-led Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh following the current monsoon, which seems to have failed to extinguish the farmers’ rage. The shooting of unarmed farmers in June demanding a fair price caused unrest within the ruling party in the state too with Bhartiya Kisan Sangh openly speaking against Chouhan. To know more about the crisis Firstpost writer Indra Shekhar Singh travelled to Bhopal to meet the Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh.
Son of former union minister Arjun Singh, Ajay has written to prime minister Narendra Modi demanding a fair treatment of farmers. He is yet to receive a reply, but Singh believes that Chouhan’s reign on MP may have began to wane. Edited excerpts of the interview:
Could you comment on current farmer’s crisis in Madhya Pradesh?
Basically, the farmers are feeling cheated because of two reasons one is that you (the BJP) gave them great hope, and then let them down badly. The basic issue here is the minimum support price (MSP), which (the BJP government) cannot guarantee. The farmers need a fair MSP that is in tune with the cost of production. The input cost in the recent years has gone up but the procurement price (the rate at which the govt buys produce from markers) does not factor this change. Secondly, farmers have to face lots of problems once they have the produce. What does a farmer do with his produce after harvest? There is hardly any government support and corruption is eating rural Madhya Pradesh too. So, the farmer, in a desperate situation goes to the trader and he feels totally cheated there also, for he needs the money after harvest for many reasons. He may need the money for events like marriage in the family, illnesses, or for preparing to sow for the next season. He has no other recourse in times like this. This is a widespread discontent of farmers all over India. This is not a problem in Madhya Pradesh. It has been a failure of the government to support Indian farmers.
Would you say this is a failure of the agriculture system that we have adopted?
Basically, the system is going towards a total failure. If you were to actually take control in the interest of the Indian farmers — and not so much on importing oilseeds, pulses, etc — you would be giving the farmers a really good backing by ensuring fair MSP for all crops. But this is not happening. Today, we are selling (ourselves) out to few MNCs and countries, which is totally unfair.
The Chouhan government has alleged that Congress engineered the “farmers crisis"? How true is this?
I fail to understand this as Congress was nowhere to be seen in the first five days of the agitation. Why didn't they make the allegation on the second or the third day? Why did they make the allegation only after unarmed farmers were killed. Their (Chouhan government) first reaction was 'anti-social' elements caused this, the second was that Congress is behind this, the third one that they have recently come up with is that it was the opium lobby. Now, one fails to understand as to is really behind this. The allegation is that Chouhan’s inept handling of the state is behind this.
You have an image of a tough leader, and now once again as the Leader of Opposition, how are you going to engineer the Congress machinery to support farmers in Madhya Pradesh?
See, out of power, you can only provide a sense of feeling and solidarity that we are with them. If the farmers have faith with us and vote for a change. Then hopefully, we’ll be able to restructure the system in such a way that farmers that were let down or cheated, get empowered and are able to stand up on their feet.
Recently, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia started a satyagraha? What is it all about?
See it's a counter to the chief minister’s fast. When he (Chouhan) realised within 12 hours that the actual farmers are not coming to meet him for the redressal of their grievances then the situation was manipulated, and party workers came as farmers. He realised that the fast cannot be prolonged. So, at night it was engineered that the slain farmers' relatives be called to Bhopal overnight and they were given some amount of money. The poor chaps had no option but to say, “Please get up from your fast”. So, basically it (Chouhan's fast) was a marketing gimmick, a PR stunt, which he (Chouhan) is very good at doing.
Madhya Pradesh has been rocked by a number of scandals including Vyapam. What does this tell you about the Chouhan government?
Let me tell everyone that the Vyapam scam came much later. The scams began first with the dumper scam. Actually, he should have gone with the first year of his tenure. He started a scheme through which you can buy a dumper without paying any money — which is unheard of. So, it started from there. The story of Chouhan started from a dumper and will end in a dumper. Chouhan has been associated with Vyapam, the shooting, the Daliya scam, and the Rio Tinto Diamond scam. I can give you a list, if you want, of the scams that have marred the present chief minister and the government.
How is Congress now preparing to take on BJP in the upcoming elections? Do we have a face that will lead the Congress in the elections?
Madhya Pradesh is a large state and every area has different issues that need to be addressed. Whether you have the farmers issue in Malwa, or the drought and water scarcity in Bundelkhand or the labour issues — all issues need a holistic solution and we are preparing to tackle all of them. But a major part of our campaign will be to expose how BJP has failed to address these issues in the last fifteen years in power. There is also a feeling of over-exposure of Chouhan. Corruption was not a major issue earlier, but today it is central to the Madhya Pradesh election. People are very concerned about the state of affairs in Madhya Pradesh right from the village level to the top. And Chouhan’s face has lost it’s lustre.
As for a leader in the upcoming elections, it is entirely the prerogative of the central high command and party. If they decide like they did in Punjab, that they need a face, we will rally behind that candidate, otherwise we are together fighting for our party and our ideals to bring justice to the people of Madhya Pradesh.
Updated Date: Jul 14, 2017 21:29 PM