Ahmedabad: After the newly elected Congress-led governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh announced farm loan waivers, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Gujarat government on Tuesday said that it too will write off pending electricity bills of ₹ 625 crore.
The move by the BJP comes in the wake of Congress president Rahul Gandhi saying that his party would ensure nationwide loan waiver if voted to power in 2019.
The announcement by the BJP comes ahead of byelections to the Jasdan assembly seat on 20 December, which is turning out to be a prestige battle between the BJP and the Congress for the Koli dominated constituency in Saurashtra.
The waiver will benefit 622,000 people in Gujarat, especially in the rural areas. They will include household users, commercial users and farmers, according to a statement by state energy minister Saurabh Patel. Power would be restored for consumers who pay ₹ 500 toward their pending electricity bills, he said in Gandhinagar on Tuesday.
The waiver is not for big industrial houses but for poor people and farmers, the power minister said.
After taking oath as the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel announced farm loan waivers for their respective states.
Gandhi earlier on Tuesday told the country’s distressed farmers from outside Parliament that he will not let Prime Minister Narendra Modi rest until all farm loans are waived.
Farm distress has been a major issue in Gujarat with Patidar leader Hardik Patel and the Congress demanding a waiver. During the 2017 state assembly elections, the Congress promised to waive farm loans in Gujarat if voted to power.
The party was, however, not successful in stopping BJP which won for the fifth successive term. Among the reasons for the fall in the BJP’s seat tally from 115 to 99 in Gujarat assembly elections was farm and rural distress.
Earlier this year, Gujarat became the first state in the country to roll out an ambitious scheme where farmers can generate electricity using solar energy and sell the surplus to the electricity grid. Under the Suryashakti Kishan Yojana, farmers can produce electricity for farm and irrigation purposes and also sell surplus power to state-owned power companies at ₹ 7 per unit for seven years.