Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Opposition latches on to farmer stir to target NDA

Rahul, Kejriwal, Pawar among others lend support as farmers take out protest march

New Delhi: Thousands of farmers from all over India gathered in the national capital on Friday to press the central government for a waiver of agricultural loans and better crop prices amid a groundswell of support from opposition political parties.

Opposition leaders including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, speaking to farmers gathered at Parliament Street in central Delhi, supported the demands and said the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government at the centre will have to pay a heavy price in the general election next year for its poor management of the agrarian crisis.

The protest demonstration, organized by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a coalition of about 200 farmer organizations from across India, saw a string of leaders—from veterans such as former Union minister Sharad Pawar to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Gandhi—sharing the stage and espousing the farmers’ cause. Other leaders who joined and spoke in solidarity with the farmers included CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, former Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav and Jammu and Kashmir National Conference chairman Farooq Abdullah.

Gandhi, in his seven-minute speech, argued that if the Modi government can write off corporate loans worth 3.5 trillion, there is no reason it cannot announce a farm loan waiver package.

“The government has not fulfilled the promises it made to farmers on ensuring higher minimum support prices and bonuses (over support prices)," Gandhi said. “Political parties with different ideologies have come together to ensure a better future for the youth and farmers of this country." He stopped short of promising a loan waiver to farmers as a poll promise in the 2019 elections, but said, “We are with you... and whatever you ask us to do, we will do it."

Kejriwal said that the Modi government has failed to fulfil its promise to ensure 50% returns over cost of cultivation. “Today farmers have to come and plead before the government as they do not get a fair price for their produce... the (new) crop insurance scheme is a fraud on farmers and should be replaced by a compensation scheme for crop damage," Kejriwal said.

Commenting on the opposition coming together to support the cause of farmers, Yogendra Yadav, leader of Jai Kisan Andolan who played a critical role in forging the AIKSCC coalition, observed that “what one witnessed today is that the farmers’ stock is going up in the political market, which is good news for them in the short term." Farmers from nearly all major states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, reached Delhi on Thursday to demand a special session of Parliament to discuss their problems. The primary demands made by farmers are a complete waiver of loans and implementation of the price policy recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.

“I am yet to receive the payment for sugarcane sold last year to mills... if the Modi government does not waive our loans we will ensure that it does not return to power in 2019 elections," said Balak Ram, a farmer from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh who was at the protest venue.

The seeds of discontent

Farmers from nearly all major states including UP, MP, TN, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, reached Delhi on Thursday

Primary demands of the farmers include a complete waiver of agricultural loan and better crop prices

The protest, organized by AIKSCC, saw a string of leaders such as Sharad Pawar, Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi

Other leaders who joined included CPI(M) general secy Sitaram Yechury, former JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav

If the Modi govt can write off corp loans worth 3.5 tn, there is no reason it can’t waive off farm loans, argues Gandhi

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